There was a time in the not so distant past, when organic food was a niche market. Organic products were bought and sold by the same ‘crunchy granola’ demographic.

Not any more.

In fact, since 1990, organic food sales in the United States and Canada have been growing at approximately 20% per year. In 2006, sales of organic food in the United States and Canada topped $18 billion.

These numbers have caught the attention of the mainstream agri-business industry.

As you can see in the chart below, the growth in organic food sales is being driven by mainstream supermarkets.

Over the past decade, the growth in organic food sales from natural food stores and the ‘direct to consumer’ route has been increasing at a moderate rate.

The same can’t be said for sales made at supermarkets. In 1998, organic food sales in supermarkets are half the size of the sales in natural food stores. However, in 2006, supermarket sales have grown to be neck and neck with the natural food stores.

There is money to be made. And big business is good at making big money.

The following charts illustrate how North America’s largest food processors have increased their share of the organic food market.

Organic Industry Structure: Top 30 Acquisitions – pdf

Organic Industry Structure: Top 30 Introductions – pdf

Organic Industry Structure: Significant Acquistions and Introductions – pdf

The following chart highlights the major independent organic food processors and their brands.

Organic Industry Structure: Major Independents and Their Brands – pdf

This chart illustrates the Private Label organic food brands available in North America

Organic Industry Structure: Private Label Brands – pdf

This chart presents a time line of the acquisitions and mergers of the 4 major organic food retailers.

Please note that on August 27, 2007, Whole Foods officially completed their buyout of Wild Oats.

Organic Industry Structure: Retail Acquisitions and Mergers – pdf

Organic Industry Structure: Whole Foods and Wild Oats Locations – pdf

This chart illustrates the concentration of the organic food market at the distribution level.

Organic Industry Structure: Distributor Acquisitions and Mergers – pdf

All of this data was originally organized by Dr. Philip Howard. I was introduced to it via this post from Lucas @ wwje. The purpose of this post is not to disparage any of the players involved in growing, distributing or selling of organic food.

My goal is to raise awareness in consumers to the fact that as the organic food industry grew, it changed.

The whale swallowed the minnow. Organic is now a marketing term. And the practices that endeared organic food to the early adopters may becoming endangered.