Organic food sales surpassed the 100 billion US dollar mark for the first time in 2018. Starting from almost nothing in the 1990s, the global organic food market is now worth 105.5 billion US dollars.

Organic produce is considered a major sustainability success story in the food industry. Widely regarded as the premier eco-label, over 300 ecolabels are now present in the food industry representing some ethical or environmental or sustainability attributes. With organic farming now practiced in over 180 countries, organic produce is considered the bastion of sustainability in the food industry.

North America

North America has the largest market for organic food & drink. Valued at 51 billion US dollars, the market comprises almost half of global revenues. Organic products have high penetration in food retailers in the USA and Canada. All leading food retailers are now marketing organic foods under their private labels. O Organics (Safeway) and PC Organics (Loblaws) are the leading private labels for organic foods in the US and Canada, respectively. Kroger, the second-largest food retailer, announced that sales of its Simple Truth private label products surpassed 2 billion US dollars in 2017. Organic foods and ingredients are also making inroads in the catering & foodservice sector. A number of restaurants, cafés and fast-food establishments are using organic ingredients. Some foodservice outlets are focusing on organic products. For instance, the first USDA-certified organic fast-food outlet opened in San Francisco under the Organic Coup banner in 2015. It was operating 12 fast food restaurants in California and Washington in 2019.

Demand for organic foods continues to outpace supply, with organic products imported into the US from every continent. Imports of organic products are being facilitated by organic trade arrangements between the US and various countries, such as Switzerland, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, as well as the EU.


The European market for organic food and drink is the second largest in the world. Worth roughly 45 billion US dollars, it comprised 42 percent of global revenues in 2018. Mainstream retailers generate most organic food sales in Europe. All leading supermarkets are offering organic foods under their private labels. Distribution of organic foods is increasing in retail and non-retail channels. Organic products are making inroads in professional home delivery schemes, online retailers as well as drugstores and pharmacies. Direct marketing is becoming increasingly prominent in northern Europe. Organic farmers are selling direct to consumers via farmers markets and farm shops. The growing popularity of regional produce is driving this trend. For instance, the British box scheme company Riverford delivers about 50’000 organic vegetable boxes a week.

Many retailers are actively promoting their organic product ranges. It is becoming increasingly common for supermarkets to undertake advertising on television, radio, magazines and billboards for their private label ranges. Similar to North America, organic foods and ingredients are being used by catering & food service establishments. A growing number of chained outlets, such as McDonald’s and IKEA are sourcing organic products. National governments are encouraging the use of organic foods in public institutions. For instance, the French government introduced a bill in February 2018 requiring that at least half of food purchased by the Catering and Food Service (CFS) sector must be either organic, come with a quality label, or be locally produced by 2022. Organic food sales are concentrated in Western Europe. Central & Eastern European (CEE) countries, such as Poland, Ukraine and Hungary, are important producers of organic crops. However, they have relatively small markets for organic products.


Asia has the third-largest market for organic products. The organic food market is experiencing healthy growth as consumer awareness is increasing in countries, such as India, China and Indonesia. Organic foods were rare in the 2000s. Following the trend in Europe and North America, large food retailers are becoming more active in selling organic products. Some are launching private labels and setting up supply chains for their organic product ranges. The largest producers of organic crops are countries with large agricultural sectors, such as India, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The largest consumers, however, are the wealthiest countries such as China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and India. Indeed, China and India started off as large producers and exporters of organic products, and have only recently developed sizeable internal markets.

Latin America

Brazil has the largest market for organic products in Latin America. Similar to Asia, demand is coming from a growing middle class that is seeking healthy, nutritious foods. According to Organis, 19 percent of Brazilians are now regular buyers of organic products. Street markets and supermarkets are the most important outlets for organic food sales. Other Latin American countries such as Argentina, Peru, Chile, and Colombia have export-oriented organic food markets.

Other regions

Although demand for organic products is rising across the world, the market for organic food & drink in other regions remains relatively small. The combined market value in other regions (Asia, Australasia, Latin America and Africa) totaled 9.6 billion US dollars in 2018. Australia and New Zealand also have important markets for organic products. Both countries are established as leading exporters; organic products include beef, lamb, kiwi fruit, apples, pears, onions, wine, and dairy products.

Growth foretaste

Organic food and drink sales are projected to continue to grow at a healthy pace in the coming years. Initially starting from Europe and the United States, organic food production and consumption has now become a global phenomenon. Organic farming is now practiced in almost all countries of the world. However, demand for organic foods remains concentrated in North America and Europe. Although the share of these two regions is declining, they still comprise over 85 percent of global sales. A major challenge is for strong local markets to develop in Asian, Latin American and African countries. Another challenge is the rise in competing for sustainable food products. Sustainability is becoming an integral part of the food industry, with a growing number of companies adopting eco-labels and sustainability schemes. Organic is just one part of a growing complex sustainability mix. There is a concern that it may be increasingly marginalized in favor of other schemes. Consumer preferences are also changing. Consumers are demanding ethical and sustainable products; however, organic is only one of the various options they now have. Globally, plant-based foods are gaining currency as they appeal to consumers who want to reduce or avoid animal-based products. Some of the reasons why consumers buy plant alternatives to meat and dairy products are the same reasons why consumers buy organic foods: concern for the environment, animal welfare, and general health. There are questions on how organic foods will fit into a food industry that is becoming rife with eco-labels, sustainability schemes and ethical food options. How it navigates itself through this green maze will determine the pace of its growth in the coming decade.

About the Author:
Bijay Ojha; B.Sc. Ag
Lamjung Campus
Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science

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