(Feb. 18, 10:22 a.m.) While organic foods overall might take a hit because of the ailing economy, organic fresh produce is expected to hold its own.

Packaged Facts, a market data, trends and analysis research company based in New York charts the resilience of the organic industry in its “Food Flavors and Ingredients Outlook 2009” report.

The report, based on interviews with food industry marketing executives and analysts, on-site analysis of retail and foodservice venues and recent data, shows that as the current recession deepens, signs point to consumers and restaurants alike becoming more selective in paying premium prices for organic goods.

However, as health concerns also continue to grow in the wake of rising healthcare costs, organic produce, especially those falling within the “superfoods” categories, should continue to stay strong as consumers look to them as a form of “affordable insurance” against chronic illnesses and accompanying disastrous medical bills.

Packaged Facts predicts that as budget pressures force consumers and foodservice operations to narrow their use of organics, purchases will be focused on fresh meat, dairy and produce.

“With specific reference to organics, it appears that consumers will scrutinize their purchases, spending the money on categories that are mainstays of the diet, such as produce,” said Elaine Tecklenburg, a research specialist with Packaged Facts, said in an e-mail. “I’m not sure about specific types of fruits and veggies, though.”

The growth of home vegetable gardening, community-supported agriculture programs and farmers’ markets is also expected to continue.

“Multiple factors are converging in support of home vegetable gardening, CSAs and farmers’ markets — freshness, local and safety,” Tecklenburg said. “Freshness has always been a factor, but over the last few years, consumers have become more ecologically conscious and are now aware of food miles and how far their fruits and vegetables have traveled to reach their tables. Country-of-origin labeling will make this even more apparent than in the past.

How the sector will ride out the recession this year is anybody’s guess, she said.

“Personally, I expect it will suffer to the extent that organic and natural food retailers will suffer,” she said. “If consumers return to conventional grocery stores for routine food shopping, sales of organic produce will likely be impacted, albeit to a lesser extent, by the channel switch.”