Ongoing inflation continued impacting organic fresh produce sales in the first quarter of 2023 as overall dollar sales grew by slightly less than one percent and volume declined by 3.4 percent from the same per year-over-year period, according to the Q1 2023 Organic Produce Performance Report released by Organic Produce Network (OPN) and Category Partners.
Overall, the total produce department gained 2.6 percent in dollars for Q1 2023 compared to the same period in 2022 and declined by 1.3 percent in volume. Sales of organic fresh produce totaled nearly $2.4 billion for the first quarter of 2023, while overall volume topped 703 million pounds.
The report uses Nielsen IQ syndicated data to track and report the performance of organic fresh produce—and specifically the 20 leading organic categories. “In an inflationary period, we see this standard of growth for dollars and decline for volume repeated for most organic and conventional items,” said Tom Barnes, CEO of Category Partners. “With rising prices, we may be seeing more selective organic shopping from consumers as they substitute conventional items for higher-priced organic items.”
Organic tomatoes were the most noticeable example of substitution as their price per pound increased by almost three times the amount of conventional, resulting in a volume decline of 8 percent.
Organic grapes had an incredible quarter with a 37.3 percent increase in volume and a 40.2 percent increase in dollars. Imported organic grapes are closing in on entering the top 20 organic categories in Q1 with $22 million in sales for the quarter this year, which places them in the 22nd spot by dollars.
Pre-packaged salads and berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries) led the quarter as the top organic produce categories in dollars, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all sales.
Current trends show both conventional and organic produce volume shrinking year over year. At the same time, while volume for conventional produce is below 2020 and organics are on par with 2020, both are consistently gaining in dollars. For the first quarter of 2023, half of the leading 20 organic categories posted increases in dollars. Organic onions generated the largest percent increase in dollars at 10 percent, followed by bell peppers, lettuce and herbs. Inversely, avocados posted the largest decline in dollars, while apples also posted noticeable declines.
In the first quarter of 2023, 15 of the leading 20 categories posted declines in volume, with seven of those 15 categories displaying positive year-over-year dollar growth. Organic apples posted the largest year-over-year decline in volume (by total pounds) of the categories, followed by bananas and carrots.
The 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) from January-March of 2023. The report is available here.