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Category Partners' Tom Barnes and Good Eggs' Ben Hartman Detail Organic Numbers at Retail; Trends, Predictions, and More

Category Partners' Tom Barnes and Good Eggs' Ben Hartman Detail Organic Numbers at Retail; Trends, Predictions, and More



MONTEREY, CA - Organic Grower Summit, hosted by Organic Produce Network, offers the industry a chance to digest the latest in terms of organic trends and innovations. In order to do so, the show was jam-packed with education sessions. One such session was Organics at Retail - Performance and Consumer Expectations, which detailed trends and future predictions for the sector.

Tom Barnes, Chief Executive Officer, Category Partners“Organics at retail are a strong part of the business and continue to be a growth driver in almost every category,” noted Tom Barnes, Chief Executive Officer of Category Partners and a session panelist. “Organic berries are doing extremely well. Strawberries posted the largest percent increase of any organic categories with all four of the major berries gaining momentum at retail. Some organic veg categories have had a tough year, with organic carrots, mushrooms, and squash all declining year over year for the 52 weeks ending 11/13/2021.”

Tom noted that innovation in the sector has slowed somewhat due to disruptions caused by the pandemic.

“In order for the produce department to continue on the current growth curve, innovation such as new items, varieties, and different types of packaging needs to ramp back up. Retailers are going to be hungry for innovative new offerings in 2022,” he shared with me.

Category Partners notes that some organic produce categories, such as berries, continue to gain momentum at retail

Growers and shippers that can answer this demand for new organic products will see a great 2022, Tom added, but explained that both suppliers and buyers alike need to be aware of the current situation with inflation.

“We are seeing rising costs in almost every department of the store and outside of the grocery store in gas, electronics, and housing. This means when the consumer’s wallet is stretched thin, higher-end and higher-cost items will not make it into the basket as often. Most organic produce items would fall into that category,” he commented. “Understanding this struggle and maintaining a competitive cost, while not matching conventional produce, is going to be important to continue to see growth in organic produce.”

Ben Hartman, fellow panelist and Senior Category Manager of Perishables for Good Eggs, offered his insights, too.

Ben Hartman, Senior Category Manager of Perishables, Good Eggs“Because growers and retailers alike erred on the side of simplification and streamlined their assortment in the weeks and months following the beginning of the pandemic, consumers and retail buyers are now craving the return of innovation,” he shared with me, echoing Tom.

During the panel, Ben also commented on the trends within the organic sector, noting that consumers of organic produce want to see their purchases making even more of an impact in the fight against climate change.

“They want to know not only what didn’t go into the soil, the water, or the air but how the health of our soil and ecosystem was improved by the product. They want to see produce packaging move away from petroleum-based plastics. And, increasingly, they want to know that the people who grew, harvested, packed, and delivered their food are receiving a living wage with good benefits, despite the prevailing gig economy model,” he added.

Because growers and retailers alike erred on the side of simplification and streamlined their assortment in the weeks and months following the beginning of the pandemic, consumers and retail buyers are now craving the return of innovation

Looking forward to 2022, Ben remarked that as organic produce gains market share in the overall market, growers should be finding ways to further differentiate themselves within the organic market.

“As the price gap shrinks between certified organic produce and conventional produce, a race to the bottom in terms of pricing will only lead to further consolidation of the organic industry. More and more consumers will want to know more about growing practices and labor practices, and will explore specialty varieties that focus on flavor and nutrition profile,” he concluded.

As we continue to track the trends and numbers of organic produce, keep your eyes dialed to AndNowUKnow.

Organic Produce Network Category Partners Good Eggs



Companies in this Story


Category Partners LLC

In 2008, Category Partners was created for this very reason as a joint venture between two large grower/shippers, with the...