U.S. retail produce market "growing more complex by the week" - FreshFruitPortal.com

U.S. retail produce market "growing more complex by the week"

Fresh produce demand in the U.S. retail market softened slightly in the week ended August 2, with numerous factors affecting sales.

Sales of fresh produce were 8.4% higher year-on-year, which is the lowest weekly increase since the end of June. This was made up by a 13% lift in vegetables and a 4.4% uptick in fruit.

“There are many factors going into the produce at retail sales puzzle right now, with the market growing more complex by the week,” said Joe Watson, VP of Membership and Engagement for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

“Consumer concern over the virus remains very high, economic pressure is mounting, hurricane Isaias left several hundred thousand households without power all along the eastern seaboard and all the while consumers are struggling with meal planning and new recipe ideas. All this affects fresh produce sales at retail, some positively, some negatively.” 

Fruit’s pandemic performance has been a bit more up and down than vegetables, but this too was the lowest gain since the final week of June.

“During the week of August 2, total store trips and total edible trips fell below last year’s levels by 1%,” said Watson.

“With fruit being more affected by impulse sales, the number of weekly store visits is very important to the sales performance for fruit.”

Jonna Parker, Team Lead, Fresh for IRI said that whether it was the lack of trips, the influence of the last week of the month, the uncertainty surrounding the extension of unemployment benefits, the impact of hurricane, or a combination of all the above, the sales performance across departments was a bit lower this week.

“I expect the coming weeks to be very telling for what the rest of the year may hold in terms of everyday demand," she explained.

"Back-to-school season is around the corner for several states, and our weekly survey found that half of parents with children ages six to twelve are now expecting their children to partake in virtual education (50%), with an additional 15% expecting mixed virtual and in-person education," she said.

"Only 19% of parents expect their younger kids to go back face-to-face. Parents of teenagers expect 24% to go back in person, with 42% expecting virtual education only and 19% a mixed virtual and in-person system. This will once more completely change year-over-year trending, as many more meal occasions for these students will remain at-home."