Thursday, July 06, 2006

Organic Food Is A Growth Industry

Imports are plugging the gap between consumer demand and U.S. supply.
America's appetite for organic food is so strong that supply just can't keep up with demand. Organic products still have only a tiny slice, about 2.5 percent, of the nation's food market. But the slice is expanding at a feverish pace.
Growth in sales of organic food has been 15 percent to 21 percent each year, compared with 2 percent to 4 percent for total food sales.

Organic means food is grown without bug killer, fertilizer, hormones, antibiotics or biotechnology.

Mainstream supermarkets, eyeing the success of organic retailers such as Whole Foods, have rushed to meet demand. The Kroger Co., Safeway Inc. and SuperValu Inc., which owns Albertson's LLC, are among those selling their own organic brands. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said earlier this year it would double its organic offerings.

The number of organic farms — an estimated 10,000 — is also increasing, but not fast enough. As a result, organic manufacturers are looking for ingredients outside the United States in places like Europe, Bolivia, Venezuela and South Africa.

I can remember when outside of co-ops, it was tough to find organic produce--and even then, the pickings were often mighty thin. I can remember when most people looked at my husband cock-eyed when he said that he used no chemicals of any kind on his garden. (That reaction positively paled to the one he'd get when he explained why he had no attention of giving up his status as practically the only homeowner on the block who didn't have a contract with Chemlawn, or some such, and didn't mind clover etc. mixed in with his grass. But I won't digress.)

Now, even Wal-Mart thinks there's enough demand to get into the business.

As the article points out, it's not such a simple proposition to run successful organic-food growing businesses. But maybe there's a real growth opportunity for farmers who can't or don't want to compete in the mass, mainstream agribusiness market.

The very idea makes my mouth water.