Monterey, CA—Ongoing inflation is impacting organic. Retail prices of organic fresh produce increased during the third quarter of 2022, generating a 4.1% increase in total organic dollars but also contributing to a decline of 4.5% in organic volume compared to the same period last year, according to theQ3 2022 Organic Produce Performance Report released by Organic Produce Network (OPN) and Category Partners.

Four Year Organic Produce Performance ComparisonHighlights from the Q3 Organic Produce 2022 report

As outlined in a press release:
  • Organic fresh produce pricing per pound increased by 8.9% for Q3 2022 compared to the same period last year.
  • Sales for the quarter topped $2.4 billion.
  • Conventional produce's average price per pound increased more than 10%, with total sales of $17.93 billion.
  • Overall produce department sales gained 8.3% in dollars for Q3 2022; volume declined by 1.5%.
  • The average price per pound increased by 21 cents for the total produce department compared to Q3 2021.
TheQ3 2022 Organic Produce Performance Reportuses Nielsen IQ syndicated data to track and report the performance of organic fresh produce, and looks specifically at the 20 leading organic categories. As the release notes, the report suggests rising prices may cause consumers to be more selective when shopping.

“Comparing the third quarter of this year to third quarters of the past three years shows organic volume declining—and more than three percentage higher than the decline in conventional produce volume for Q3 of 2022,” said Tom Barnes, CEO of Category Partners. “Conventional produce outperformed organic produce in dollar growth, suggesting price increases in conventional produce have been more easily absorbed by consumers than the higher prices in organics.”

A bright spot for organic sales in Q3 2022

The tomato category saw a 19% increase in volume and a 30% increase in dollars. In total, 14 of the top categories posted year-over-year increases in dollars, with potatoes, onions, and peaches showing double-digit gains, according to the release.

Berries and packaged salads are the top two organic produce categories, capturing nearly 40% of all organic produce dollars.

Apples saw the largest decline in dollar sales, with lettuce and bell peppers also showing declines. The release points to organic apples and lettuce as examples of product substitution from organic to conventional by consumers as their price per pound of organic increased by more than double the amount of conventional.

Organic/Conventional Price Gap Grows

“In Q3 2022, the average price gap between conventional and organics is the largest it has been in the last four years,” said Barnes in the release. “In this inflationary time period, it will be important for organic suppliers to understand how their pricing impacts substitution behavior among various consumer demographics.”

Despite the minor decline in organic volume, OPN co-founder and CEO Matt Seeley is bullish on the long-term prospects for growth of organic fresh produce. “Inflation and supply chain challenges have impacted pricing in the short term; however, organic fresh produce will remain an important component of weekly food shopping as consumers look for healthy, safe, and nutritious products for their families.”

The Q3 2022 Organic Produce Performance Report covers total food sales in the U.S., including all outlets (i.e., supermarkets, mass merchandisers, club stores, dollar stores, convenience stores, and military commissaries) over the months of July, August, and September of this year.

Related: Retailer of the Year: Fresh Thyme Market Trends to Watch: ECRM Produce, Seafood, Meat   9 Trends from Plant Based World Expo 2022