Organic food sales are not only a growth industry but also a growth industry world wide. According to an Ibis market report, organic food sales are the number 3 out of the top five growth industries in Australia (Pa;mer, AFN, Jan 14 2010. A 14% growth is predicted by IBIS, a world market forecast company.
“While on average organic goods remain more expensive than non-organic produce, higher disposable incomes, coupled with increasing awareness of environmental sustainability and an increase in the range of organic produce available, will see continued growth in this industry,” IBISWorld General Manager (Australia), Mr Robert Bryant, said. “Growth will mainly be driven by increases in production, and an increase in consumer demand. Not only does Organic Farming offer higher returns for farmers, but recent studies suggest it is more resilient and adaptable to changing conditions wrought by climate change – encouraging some farmers to switch from conventional to organic farming”(Palmer, AFN, Jan 14, 2010.)
Australia and Europe sales of organic food show dramatic increases. But sales of organic food are also a growth industry in the US. According to the US based Organic Trade Association, 11% of all US fruit and vegetable sales are organic. Mass market retailer (yes, think Walmart), accounted for 54% of the sales in the US in 2010, with 39% from specialty markets and farmers markets. (Organic Trade Association).
Consumers in America are savvy and the growth in organic food sales reflect their awareness of the food production system. Organics are no longer associated with the very outdated counter-culture image of the 1960s and early 1970s.
To put the growth in perspective, organic food sales are growing at a rate of 20% annually, if one looks at the growth in sales over the last decade. But worldwide, Australia and surrounding countries lead in the movement, according to The World of Organic Agriculture 2009 http://www.organic-world.net/fileadmin/documents/yearbook/2009/world-of-organic-agriculture-2009-small-2009-02-15.pdf
Oceania, as the report terms Australia and surrounding areas, leads with 12 million hectares in cultivation compared to 1.6 hectares in the US. Argentia is 2nd with about 3 million hectares of land in organic cultivations.
Why is Australia the leader?
Australia’s culture is significantly tied to food production; it does not have the same level of urban density as to be found in parts of Europe or the US, and the food productions systems may be more closely tied to older models.
Also unlike the US, the fattest nation in the world, Australians who do not show as significant in the reports on obese nations, may pay more attention to the relationship between their food and their weight.
A typical dinner out in the US has factory produced meat loaded with trace antibiotics, a large serving of potatoes, and a very small serving of vegetables, all with a side of bread. Factor in unknowns with gm foods, and the antibiotics, values in the US food consumer—reflected in the production side—are not focused on health concerns.
However, the US, although not at the pace of those “down under,” is still showing health signs of growth in organic food sales, with a 20 percent increase in national markets annually.
Will we catch up to Australia? Not likely, but sales of organic food are growing significantly so that consumers now have real choices.