Washington, D.C.—For the first time, annual consumer purchases of organic products in the United States have topped $30 billion. At $31.5 billion, $29.22 billion of which went to organic foods and beverages with organic non-foods at $2.2 billion, the sector grew 9.5% in 2011 over the previous year.

These statistics come from the 2012 Organic Industry Survey, taken by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). “With 94 percent of organic operations nationwide planning to maintain or increase employment in 2012, the organic sector will continue to fuel jobs, rural economies and consumer choice,” said executive director and CEO of OTA Christine Bushway. The industry’s growth is compared with more modest figures for conventional foods and products, which saw 4.7% growth last year. The organic food sector still comprises a tiny percentage of overall food sales, up from 4% in 2010 to come in at 4.2% of the total. The OTA survey indicates that over the next two years there will likely be continued growth in organic sales of 9% or higher.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, June 2012 (online 4/23/12)