U.S.: Apple volumes up for second consecutive month
U.S. apple volumes rose by 1.8% for the second consecutive month but are still experiencing unfavorable pricing relative to last year. Washington-based apple grower and packer Stemilt released an overview updating the industry on the market and current volumes, highlighting that Honeycrisp volumes are up an "incredible" 22% year-over-year.
However, prices for Honeycrisp are less than great as the month's volume increase "only made for a dollar increase of just 4.6%," according to senior marketing manager Brianna Shales. As all apple varieties declined 3.6% in dollar sales relative to last year, the apple category is facing difficult times.
Lower retail prices mean that, while domestically grown varieties like the Honeycrisp are a "consumer favorite", apples are in a period of ongoing deflation. Shales said in a release Wednesday that the "larger crop nationally" shows that retailers "will want to look closely at their Honeycrisp strategy" as spring nears.
Promoting apples in a less-than-ideal pricing market
Without working strategically to get the best possible value for apples and to "ensure that they aren't leaving dollars behind", retailers could be at a loss.
What Shales suggests is for supermarkets and wholesalers to really push St. Patrick's Day promotions on apples. She pointed out that the season is the "ideal time" to promote Granny Smith apples.
The new analysis of Nielsen scan data from Jan. 2020 is in line with trends in the industry that show higher volumes and decreasing prices. Earlier this year U.S. apple stocks reached a reported 144.1m bushels, significantly up from the previous season but in line with what producers expected.
Of the apples that have larger volumes in the U.S. market, the Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji, Granny Smith and Red Delicious are the top five varieties that have seen jumps in volumes in the first months of 2020.
"Last year, we had a shortage of Granny Smith apples and this year we have a larger, and truly high-quality crop," commented Shales.
Upcoming months bring the promise of better sales, noted Shales, as the spring historically has some of the best-quality apples. This time also brings with it a period of transition for growing regions, a good opportunity for retailers, she added.
“This opens the door for apples and makes cross-category ads a great idea for ensuring produce sales grow during the late winter and early spring months. Promoting multiple varieties on ad will increase that volume rise and give the category a boost.”
Organic apples volumes were also up for Jan. 2020 by 10% and in dollars, rose by 2.2%. Making up about 12% of the total apple category in the U.S. market in 2020, the sector seems to be promising.