U.S.: Strong start for summer fruit and veg sales at retail

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U.S.: Strong start for summer fruit and veg sales at retail

Sales of summer fruits at U.S. retailers have had a strong start to the season, as overall fresh produce growth steadies at an elevated level following a couple of months of fluctuation.

Fresh produce year-over-year growth for the week of May 17 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 16.0% — very similar to the prior week’s 17.1%.

Fresh vegetables continued to easily outperform fruit, but both achieved double-digit increases. Frozen once more had the highest gains, up 48.4%, despite continued high out-of-stocks in the frozen food aisle. 

“Due to rapidly changing shopping patterns and the effect of holidays ever since the onset of coronavirus, we have not yet had a week that is indicative of where elevated everyday demands sits relative to the old baseline,” said Joe Watson, VP of Membership and Engagement for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

“With the numbers holding in the high teens for the third week in a row, sales are starting to settle into a nice pattern. At the same time, with restaurants coming back online, we see more foodservice trucks loaded with fresh produce hitting the road and strengthening demand will improve overall market conditions.”

Jonna Parker, Team Lead, Fresh for IRI, said summer fruit and vegetables are off to a "strong start" on the retail side.

“Cherries, for instance, came on very strong the week of May 17 with a more than 50% sales increase over last year. Berries continued to track well as did melons, both great indicators of summer season strength," she said.

And, on the vegetable side, seeing that corn continued to track nearly 30% ahead of the same week last year shows that consumers are engaged in the typical summer activities, albeit within new social distancing realities.

These are some of the first signs that summer trends of years past will persist even during these unprecedented times.”

The top three growth items in terms of absolute dollar gains over the same week in 2019 were berries, potatoes and lettuce. While the volume/dollar gap has started to narrow for several fruits and vegetables, some remained high, including peppers, avocados and onions.

“On the fruit side, we saw continued significant volume/dollar gaps for items such as pineapples (16 point gap), avocados (14 points) and apples (9 points),” said Watson.

“For each, we see volume sales far exceed dollar sales, so the consumer demand is there, but the market conditions are putting pressure on price. But gaps for items such as melons have significantly narrowed, and others are actually seeing dollars track ahead of volume, including tangerines and kiwi.”

Parker added that fruit gains have been holding their ground over recent weeks.

“Cherries are the perfect example of an important summer fruit coming on strong, jumping right to being the seventh-highest seller for the week of May 17," she said.

"This is cherries’ terrific impulse power at work, but an important question to ask ourselves is whether shoppers who are ordering online are aware of the new cherry crop being available. Communicating about new offerings on social and digital is more important than ever.”

Six out of the top 10 items in terms of dollar sales saw double-digit increases during the week of May 17 versus the comparable week in 2019, whereas grape sales continued to see dollar sales pressure

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