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US sales of organic food have more than tripled since 2000, from 1.2% of total food sales to 3.7% in 2009, to reach $24.8 billion (NZ$34.36 billio), according to a report from MeatProcess.com.

The report, citing the Organic Trade Association (OTA) says the organic sector has continued to grow at a faster rate than the food industry as a whole. US organic food sales were up 5% last year, while general food sales grew by just 2%. 

OTA’s executive director Christine Bushway was quoted as saying these findings are indicative that even in tough times, consumers understand the benefits that organic products offer and will make other cuts before they give up products they value. 

The 5% growth for organic food seen in 2009 was against the 15.8% growth seen in 2008. 

The report notes that organic food sales have been much more resilient in the economic downturn than many had predicted. 

Growth for the sector last peaked in 2006, at 21%, the report says. The average annual growth rate for organic foods was 19% from 1997-2008. 

While fruit and vegetables still made up the largest portion of organic food and drink sales, at 38%, dairy accounted for 15%, packaged foods for 14% and beverages for 13%  of the market in 2009. This was followed by 11% for breads and grains, 5% for snack foods, and 2% each for condiments and meat, poultry and fish.

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