WASHINGTON – Organic food sales in the United States increased by 8.4 percent in 2016 to reach $43 billion, marking the first time sales surpassed $40 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association’s industry survey released May 24. The 8.4 percent jump compared to an increase of 0.6 percent in overall US food market sales.

Overall US organic sales were about $47 billion in 2016. Sales of organic non-food products increased 8.8 percent to $3.9 billion. Organic food accounted for 5.3 percent of total US food sales.

Sales of organic meat and poultry rose more than 17 percent in 2016 to $991 million. Organic dips and organic spices, although still smaller categories, recorded double-digit jumps in sales. Organic dip sales increased 41 percent to $57 million, and organic spice sales increased 35 percent to $193 million.

Organic fruits and vegetables, the largest organic food category, accounted for nearly 40 percent of all organic food sales, rising 8.4 percent to $15.6 billion in 2016. Organic fruit and vegetables made up almost 15 percent of the produce that Americans ate in 2016.

More than 60 percent of all organic businesses with more than five employees reported an increase in full-time employment in 2016.

Laura Batcha, executive director the Organic Trade Association

“Organic farmers are not just staying in business, they’re often expanding,” said Laura Batcha, executive director of the Washington-based Organic Trade Association. “Organic handling, manufacturing and processing facilities are being opened, enlarged and retooled. Organic farms, suppliers and handlers are creating jobs across the country, and the organic sector is growing and creating the kinds of healthy, environmentally friendly products that consumers are increasingly demanding.”

She added the organic sector needs help in meeting demand.

“We need more organic farmers in this country to meet our growing organic demand, and the organic sector needs to have the necessary tools to grow and compete on a level playing field,” Batcha said. “That means federal, state and local programs that help support organic research and provide the organic farmer with a fully equipped tool kit to be successful.”

Nutrition Business Journal conducted the survey on behalf of the Organic Trade Association. More than 200 companies responded to the survey, which took place from Feb. 2 to March 31.