Fresh share of produce sales normalizes in U.S. - FreshFruitPortal.com

U.S.: Fresh share of total produce sales almost back to pre-pandemic levels

The fresh share of total fruit and vegetable sales at U.S. retailers has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, following weeks of gains for frozen and canned produce.

In the week ending May 24, fresh's share was 82%, compared to the 2019 average of 84%, according to IRI data cited in a joint report by 210 Analytics and the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

In the week ending March 15, its share was cut to just 70% as shoppers stocked up on less perishable produce.

The canned share was registered at 10% in the most recent week of data, which marks a return to last year's average level. In mid-March its share shot up to 19%.

Frozen's share in late May was 8%, closing in on 2019's average of 6%, and down from the 11% recorded at the start of the pandemic.

“I’m very pleased to see that the fresh share of total fruit and vegetable dollars across the store is almost back to pre-pandemic rates,” said Joe Watson, VP of membership and engagement for the PMA.

“In mid-March, consumers were in their stock-up mindset and diverted their dollars from fresh to frozen and canned. The share of fresh to total fruit and vegetable sales across the store stood as low as 70%, but in the latest week fresh is back to 82%.”

Fresh produce sales growth

Fresh produce sales growth in the week ended May 24 - which includes Memorial Day - was 14.3% higher year-on-year. This was made up by a 20% increase in fresh vegetables and a 9.5% rise in fresh fruit.

These figures have remained relatively stable over the last month, contrasting with huge fluctuations in March and April.

The rise came amid a shortage of meat - leading more retailers to focus promotions on fresh produce instead - and a gradual reopening of restaurants around the country.

“Memorial Day week was an important gauge for me to see if summer fruits and vegetables got off to a strong start,” said Watson.

“While we are seeing a bit of erosion in the growth numbers each week, total fresh produce continued to hold in the mid teens, a very welcome pattern for retailers across the country.

"At the same time, there are many indicators that restaurant demand is strengthening, including a rising number of dinner reservations on OpenTable and continued strong takeout statistics from DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub and others.”

Orange sales "on fire"

Looking at fresh fruit specifically, in the week ending May 24 sales were down by one percentage point from the previous week, with year-on-year growth just below 10%.

While many fruits were seeing strong growth, a select few performed extremely well.

“Oranges continue to be on fire with another week of nearly 80% growth and cherries built on a strong start of the season and became the fourth-highest seller among fresh fruits at nearly $66 million," said Jonna Parker, Team Lead, Fresh for IRI. 

Five out of the top 10 items in terms of dollar sales saw double-digit increases during the week of May 24 versus the comparable week in 2019, whereas grape and tangerine sales continued to see dollar sales pressure.

All top 10 vegetables see big gains

All top 10 vegetable items in terms of dollar sales gained double-digits the week ending May 24.

“From day one we have seen vegetables take big leaps over last year’s sales and that remained true for Memorial Day weekend also,” said Parker.

“We even saw accelerated gains for several top 10 vegetables, including lettuce, cucumbers and carrots.”

Lettuce was the top sales category and was the top contributor in absolute dollar growth in vegetables, adding US$22 million in sales versus the comparable week in 2019.