I’m proud of the growth in the organic sector. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic sales in the United States have increased from $3.6 billion in 1997 to over $39 billion in 2014. This double-digit rate of growth holds true for Canada, too, which is now the fourth-largest organic market in the world.
This growth represents the leading edge of a values-based consumer movement that’s demanding more information and more accountability from agriculture. Unfortunately, some in the agricultural sector see this as more of a threat than an opportunity.
The term “Big Organic” is increasingly use to decry the perceived influence of this movement and to attempt to galvanize farmers into a defense of “modern agriculture.” Whole Foods Market, as the largest and most visible marketer of “natural” and organic foods, is a common target.
Given the alarmist language (some might even call it fear-mongering), perhaps it’s time for a little perspective:
To look at it another way, Walmart, as the United State’s largest grocery retailer, sells as many groceries in 4 weeks as Whole Foods sells all year, and sells as much food in 3 months as all organic food sold in the U.S. in a year. Walmart’s market share of the total market is more than twice Whole Foods’ share of the organic market.
The rate of growth in the organic market means that there are significant, long-term opportunities for North American farmers to fill a demand that continues to outstrip the supply. Using the term “Big Organic” to imply a threat to the status quo of mainstream agriculture is making a mountain out of a molehill.
The opportunities? They’re real.
The threat? Not so much.