Fresh produce sales seeing "solid momentum" - FreshFruitPortal.com

U.S.: "Solid momentum" in retail fruit and veg sales going into fall - PMA

Six months since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, fruit and vegetable sales at U.S. retailers are still going strong as the country transitions into the fall season.

Fresh produce had a "stellar week" in the week ended Sept. 6, with Labor Day boosting virtually all produce departments back into double-digit gains over year ago. 

Fresh fruit and vegetable sales increased 11.6% over 2019 — actually surpassing growth in shelf-stable fruits and vegetables, according to a joint report by 210 Analytics, the Produce Marketing Association, and IRI.

Frozen fruits and vegetables had the highest growth percentage, however, of a much smaller base. Year-to-date through September 6, fresh produce department sales are up 11.2% over the same time period in 2019. Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 26.7% year-to-date.

“It is great to see produce close out the summer with a strong Labor Day performance,” said Joe Watson, VP of Membership and Engagement for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA). “

Both fruit and vegetables were up double digits versus year ago and that is solid momentum going into the fall season. We need to continue to support shoppers in their healthy eating efforts, make sure we convert on every trip, online and offline, and help shoppers with meal ideas and easy solutions as they continue to prepare more meals at home.”

Fresh produce generated US$1.32bn in sales the week ending Sept. 6 — an additional $137 million in fresh produce sales over the prior year. While a strong result, this is actually below the pandemic average for additional dollars, at US$181 million per week though higher than the June, July and August averages. Vegetables grew 12.6% versus year ago and fruit had a very strong week, up 10.8% during the week.

Fresh produce commanded an 81.3% share of total fruit and vegetable sales across all three temperature zones during the week ending Sept. 6 — unchanged versus the week prior but still down from 2019’s 84% average.

One of the bigger surprises this week came in the form of volume sales that exceeded dollar sales due to a very strong performance on the fruit side. The week of September 6th experienced a 13.3% volume increase, up from just 1% the week prior.

“We have not seen volume track ahead of dollar gains since the middle of May,” said Jonna Parker, Team Lead Fresh with IRI.

“It looks like grocery retailers went in with very sharp prices for Labor Day to close out the summer season with a bang. Volume sales were at their highest level since the week of June 21, which was Father’s Day.” 

A look back at the pandemic weeks between March 15 and September 6 shows some astounding gains during the 26-week period for both vegetables and fruit.

“The produce pandemic powerhouses start with berries, potatoes and lettuce,” said Watson.

“Berries and lettuce are massive categories that still averaged double-digit growth over the 26-week period. Some real surprises are much smaller categories that punched well above their weight with very high weekly gains, including oranges and mushrooms.

"It is important to think about the why. In the case of oranges, an important lesson is stressing the nutritional benefit of fruits and vegetables. And mushrooms provide an excellent example of the impact of the foodservice dollar moving over to food retail."