Coronavirus may boost sales of organic food, says trade group

Sales of organic food rose by 4.6 percent in 2019 and the coronavirus is expected to boost demand for staple foods — dairy, eggs, rice, pasta and bread — that carry the organic label, said the Organic Trade Association on Tuesday. The OTA’s annual industry survey said Americans bought $50 billion of organic food in 2019, up by $2.2 billion from the previous year and the highest total yet.

“As shoppers each for healthy, clean food to feed their at-home families, organic food is proving to be the food of choice for home,” said the OTA. Sales of organically raised produce surged by more than 20 percent this spring, it said, and during the pantry-stocking frenzy during the early days of stay-at-home orders, organic milk, eggs, and packaged and frozen food were in high demand.

“The pandemic has only increased…desire for clean, healthy food,” said Laura Batcha, OTA chief executive.

With sales of $18 billion in 2019, fruit and vegetables supplied nearly one-third of sales of organic food revenue. While produce sales rose by 5 percent, organic dairy sales grew by nearly 2 percent, for a total of $6.6 billion. Organic meat, poultry and fish, the smallest sales sector, had sales of $1.4 billion; organic poultry was $865 million of it.

Overall, organic food was 5.8 of U.S. food sales, an increase of 0.1 percentage points from 2018 and the slowest annual growth since 2010.