The organic foods category experienced both growth and growing pains in 2017. As the industry settled into a more mature status with $49.4 billion in sales and a growth rate of 6.4 percent, the industry found itself plateauing in some areas and shifting in others as new trends and challenges arose, according to Laura Batcha, CEO, Organic Trade Association (OTA), Washington, DC.

The highest growth for the year was not surprisingly in the smaller categories of condiments and meat, poultry and seafood. With interest in paleo and grass-fed increasing, and the organic chicken supply stabilizing, this sector reported $730 million in sales, double the $367 million recorded just five years ago in 2012.

In efforts to keep consumers well informed about organic labeling, on Sept. 12, 2018, the OTA led an aggressive push-back against misleading and derogatory attacks on organic with the straight facts about organic in a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal. The move came on the heels of an op-ed and a letter to the editor published in The Wall Street Journal that disparaged the organic industry and accused it of “lying” to consumers. The Food and Drug Administration Commissioner subsequently released a series of tweets concurring with the misinformation and pledging to review organic claims.

The ad was titled, “Here’s a long list of chemicals you should never have to read,” and featured a comprehensive detailed list of the hundreds of chemicals prohibited in organic production and processing, with a link for readers to the US Dept. of Agriculture, which oversees the list of substances allowed and prohibited in organic.

“It is the mission of the Organic Trade Association to protect and promote organic, and it is our responsibility to get the facts out,” Batcha says. “Consumers deserve to know the truth. Organic’s strength is its transparency, and organic farmers and businesses work hard every day to uphold the standards of organic and to honor the trust that we’ve earned from consumers everywhere.”