April 23/Washington/Organic Trade Association -- The U.S. organic industry grew by 9.5% overall in 2011 to reach $31.5 billion in sales, and organic food sales now represent 4.2% of all U.S. food sales, up from 4% in 2010.

The organic food and beverage sector was valued at $29.22 billion, while the organic non-food sector reached $2.2 billion, according to findings from the Organic Trade Association‘s 2012 Organic Industry Survey.

“The U.S. organic sector continues to show steady and healthy growth, growing overall by 9.5% during 2011, and, for the first time, surpassing the $30 billion mark,” said Christine Bushway, the association’s executive director and CEO.

“Price is still an issue, but with the wide availability of private label products and many venues for organic products, they have many choices for where to shop and a variety of products from which to choose.”

Overall organic product sales growth of 9.5% continued to outpace total sales of comparable conventionally produced food and non-food items, which experienced 4.7% growth.

Organic food sales experienced 9.4% growth in 2011. The easing of the recession, consumer price inflation due to input price increases, and consumers’ increasing desire for convenience products were all factors that elevated growth for the year, the survey found.

The organic food sector grew by $2.5 billion during 2011, with the fruit and vegetable category contributing close to 50% of those new dollars.

The fastest-growing sector was the meat, fish and poultry category, posting 13% growth over 2010 sales, but still remaining the smallest of the eight organic food categories.

Meanwhile, organic nonfood sales, which reached $2.2 billion in 2011, experienced strong 11% growth, while total comparable non-organic items grew only 5%.

Prospects for 2012 and 2013, as indicated through the 2012 survey results, indicate that organic food and non-food sales will continue to sustain growth levels of 9% or higher, according to the Organic Trade Association.

 From the April 24, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily News