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Fresh-Market Spinach: Background Information and Statistics

For a discussion of food safety issues, see Outbreak Linked to Spinach Forces Reassessment of Food Safety Practices (Amber Waves, June 2007)

For current coverage of the fresh-market spinach industry, see the ERS bi-monthly newsletter Vegetables and Melons Outlook.

Driven by fresh-market use, the consumption of spinach (Spinacia oleracea) has been on the rise in the United States. Per capita use (covers both disappearance for food consumption and marketing loss) of fresh-market spinach averaged 2.2 pounds during 2004-06—the highest since the mid-1940s. The fresh market now accounts for about three-fourths of all U.S. spinach consumed. Much of the growth over the past decade has been due to sales of triple-washed cello-packed spinach and, more recently, baby spinach. These packaged products have been one of the fastest-growing segments of the packaged salad industry.

chart

Since falling to historic lows in the early 1970s, fresh-market spinach disappearance has been on an upward trend, reaching a record 738 million pounds in 2005—more than 12 times greater than in 1970. At the same time, use of spinach in processed forms has been trending lower as consumer demand has shifted toward fresh-market produce over the past 3 decades. In addition to use as a salad green and plate vegetable, this nutritious leafy green has also long enjoyed a reputation as a functional food packed with vitamins and minerals known to be beneficial to human health, such as vitamins C and A, the carotenoid lutein (may promote eye health), iron, folic acid, and magnesium.

The United States is the world’s second-largest producer of spinach, with 3 percent of world output, following China (PRC), which accounts for 85 percent of output. A cool-season crop that grows quickly and can withstand hard frosts, spinach is a native of Asia (likely origin in the Persian region) and has been cultivated in China since at least the 7th century. Spinach use was recorded in Europe as early as the mid-13th century, with seed accompanying colonists to the New World.

U.S. fresh-market spinach: Estimated supply, disappearance, and price

Supply
Utilization
Season-av. price
Year


 
 
Per
Current
Constant
Production
Imports
Total
Exports
Domestic
capita
dollars
dollars
 
1/
2/
 
2/
3/
use
1/
4/

--Million pounds--
Pounds
-- $/cwt --
1980
118.7
0.0
118.7
17.5
101.2
0.44
24.80
45.89
1985
181.7
0.0
181.7
21.0
160.7
0.67
27.60
39.59
1990
213.0
2.8
215.8
26.7
189.1
0.76
28.20
34.56
2000
423.9
7.2
431.1
42.9
388.2
1.37
31.80
31.80
2001
345.8
15.4
361.2
55.1
306.1
1.07
32.40
31.64
2002
462.5
13.2
475.7
63.3
412.4
1.43
34.20
32.83
2003
556.9
20.3
577.2
61.9
515.3
1.77
37.20
34.96
2004
626.6
21.6
648.2
55.5
592.7
2.02
22.00
20.11
2005
758.1
27.6
785.7
47.4
738.3
2.49
22.70
20.14
2006
620.7
20.0
640.7
37.8
602.9
2.01
29.30
25.25
2007 f
680.0
21.0
701.0
36.0
665.0
2.20
--
--

-- = Not available. f = ERS forecast. 1/ Source: NASS, USDA. 2/ Source: Bureau of the Census,
USDC. 3/ Domestic disappearance for all uses, including shrink and loss. 4/ Constant dollar
prices calculated using the GDP deflator, 2000=100.
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Vegetables and Melons Situation and Outlook Yearbook.

California (73 percent of 2004-06 U.S. output), Arizona (12 percent), and New Jersey (3 percent) are the top producing States, with 12 other States reporting production of at least 100 acres (2002 Census). Over the 2004-06 period, U.S. growers produced an average of 867 million pounds of spinach for all uses, with about three-fourths sold into the fresh-market (includes fresh-cut/processed). According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, spinach was grown on 1,109 U.S. farms—down 17 percent from 1997, but about the same number as in 1987.

The farm value of the U.S. spinach crop (fresh and processing) averaged averaged $175 million during 2004-06, with fresh market spinach accounting for 94 percent. The value of fresh market spinach has more than doubled over the past decade as stronger demand has boosted production, while inflation-adjusted prices largely remained constant. California accounts for about three-fourths of the value of both the fresh and processing spinach crops. Average grower cash receipts for spinach during 2004-06 exceeded those for such crops as garlic, asparagus, and green peas.

U.S. fresh-market spinach: Production, 2003-2006
       
Change
Item
2003
2004
2005
2006
2005-06

-- 1,000 cwt *--
Percent
California
4,160
4,590
5,850
4,620
-21.0
Arizona
780
1,050
1,090
900
-17.4
Texas
204
250
210
176
-16.2
New Jersey
252
171
200
298
49.0
Other states
173
205
231
213
-7.8
 
United States
5,569
6,266
7,581
6,207
-18.1

* A 1,000 cwt (hundredweight) = 100,000 pounds
Source: USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Vegetables Annual Summary.

Like other cool-season leafy crops, most (about 96 percent) of the fresh spinach consumed in the United States is produced domestically. Although rising, imports (largely from Mexico) totaled about 23 million pounds in 2004-06, compared with 3 million pounds in 1994-06. During the last 10 years, exports (largely to Canada) have jumped 70 percent to 47 million pounds (2004-06), with much of the growth occurring earlier this decade.

Want More Data and Information?

Factors Affecting Spinach Consumption in the United States

Vegetables and Melons Yearbook

 

For more information, contact: Gary Lucier

Web administration: webadmin@ers.usda.gov

Updated date: August 30, 2007