Natural and organic beef make up only 1.6% of total beef dollar sales and 1.1% of beef unit volume at retail in the U.S., but the segment is growing fast, reports Phil Lempert at factsfiguresfuture.com In fact, dollar sales were up 14.4%, and volume (lbs.) 10.3%, in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2005, over year-earlier performance.

Randy Irion, National Cattlemen's Beef Association director-retail marketing, says prices for all beef products offered in retail supermarkets average $3.63/lb., compared with natural and organic beef products ($5.25/lb. average). Experts say such a premium can allow retailers with the right clientele to retain sales figures in the face of growing domestic supplies due to the continued inaccessibility of U.S. beef to Pacific Rim markets.

ACNielsen LabelTrends data for food, drug and mass (FDM) stores (excluding Wal-Mart) say branded beef accounts for 54% of the $655 million in pre-packaged UPC-coded beef sales in FDM vs. the 46% share of private label. But most striking among the sales figures is the continued surge of branded beef with a natural claim on the label. It soared 170%, 28%, 101% and 51% in four successive years, from $7 million annually to $70 million annually in the period ended March 25, 2006.
-- Joe Roybal