U.S.: Fresh produce retail sales up by nearly a quarter
With year-on-year fresh produce sales at U.S. retailers in the week ending April 26 up by 22.9%, an analyst with market research firm IRI says it's clear that higher fresh produce demand is "here to stay for the foreseeable future".
In the final full week of April, fresh vegetable sales were registered 30.4% higher, while fresh fruit sales saw a 16.2% rise.
The figures mark a substantial jump over the previous week - which was competing with Easter week in 2019 - and also the highest figures since the end of the demand peak in mid-March.
A report by 210 Analytics, IRI and the PMA also noted that sales of frozen and shelf-stable produce remain highly elevated, at 57.6% and 46.3% up respectively.
“Last week was a hard one to judge because of the Easter effect,” said Joe Watson, VP of membership and engagement for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).
“It is terrific to see that retail produce sales did very well this week. This is great momentum as we get ready for the summer fruits and vegetables to hit the market. With at least some states starting to reopen restaurants, albeit at limited capacity, foodservice orders may help strengthen the overall produce demand further in weeks to come.”
Jonna Parker, Team Lead, Fresh for IRI said: "These numbers very clearly show that higher everyday demand driven by in-home consumption is here to stay for the foreseeable future."
"As the market is settling in to its new realities, headwinds are starting to ease, though some lingering supply chain issues remain. Then there is an entirely new shopping dynamic that affects everything from the demand curve to having to find new ways to drive impulse."
The top three growth items in the U.S. in terms of absolute dollar gains over the same week in 2019 were berries (+$35 million), lettuce (+$29 million) and potatoes, (+$24 million).
However, at the category level, big differences continued to exist between dollars and volume, driven by deflationary pressure.
“On the fruit side, we saw significant decreases in price per volume for items such as avocados (-16.1%), grapes (-12.5%) and tangelos (-9.9%) this week,” said Watson.
“On the vegetable side, onions had a strong 37.3% boost in dollars, but volume sales were up 55.1%, with the retail price per volume down more than 11%. Others with high decreases in the price per volume were celery (-24.8%), peppers (-12.6%) and Brussels sprouts (-6.6%).
"On the other hand, we saw some upward pressure as well for other items, particularly potatoes, with dollar sales still going strong, at +50.8%, and volume up 38.7%. Retail potato prices were 8.8% higher versus the same week last year."
For fruit specifically, the top 10 items in terms of dollar sales saw flat sales for two items (grapes and melons) but double-digit increases for seven.
“This was an important week to see how much the elevated everyday demand pushed sales past the 2019 level,” said Parker.
“Oranges continued their hot streak with another terrific 71% gain versus year ago. Highlighting nutritional benefits, particularly Vitamin C, in many other fruits and vegetables may benefit sales in weeks to come.”