GREENFIELD, MASS. – Despite the distressed state of the economy, U.S. sales of organic products continued to grow during 2009. The Organic Trade Association (O.T.A.), Greenfield, Mass., revealed in its 2010 Organic Industry Survey organic product sales in 2009 grew by 5.3% overall, to reach $26.6 billion. Of that figure, $24.8 billion represented organic food. The remaining $1.8 billion were sales of organic non-foods.

"While total U.S. food sales grew by only 1.6% in 2009, organic food sales grew by 5.1%,” said Christine Bushway, O.T.A.'s executive director. “Meanwhile, organic non-food sales grew by 9.1%, as opposed to total non-food sales which had a 1% negative sales growth rate. These findings are indicative that even in tough times, consumers understand the benefits that organic products offer and will make other cuts before they give up products they value.”

Organic fruits and vegetables experienced the most growth. They represent 38% of total organic food sales, reaching nearly $9.5 billion in sales in 2009, up 11.4% from 2008 sales. Organic fruits and vegetables now represent 11.4% of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales.

Since the approval of the final National Organic Program rule published in 2000, sales of organic fruits and vegetables have grown from $2.55 billion, representing approximately 3% of all fruit and vegetable sales, to the nearly $9.5 billion level and 11.4% penetration level. Meanwhile, during that time, organic food sales have grown from $6.1 billion to $24.8 billion in 2009, jumping from 1.2% of all U.S. food sales to 3.7%.

“The Organic Trade Association's 2010 Organic Industry Survey showed that overall, U.S. sales of organic meat were $456 million, up by 1.9% during 2009,” Barbara Haumann, senior writer/editor, Organic Trade Association, told

Here is the organic meat breakdown in order of subcategory, 2009 sales and 2009 growth, respectively: Organic beef, $100 million, 1.5%; organic lamb, $6 million, 0.2%; organic pork, $14 million, -4.3%; organic poultry, $277 million, 2.6%; organic fish, $6 million, 0.6%; and organic sausages/deli meats, $54 million,1.3%.

The mass-market channel had the lion's share of organic food sales in 2009, with 54% of organic sold through mainstream grocers, club stores and retailers. Natural retailers were next, with 38% of total organic food sales. Although still representing a small percentage of sales, farmers' markets, co-ops and C.S.A. (community-supported agriculture) operations gained a lot of interest as consumers increasingly look for locally and regionally produced organic foods.