U.S. retail produce sales: Apples starting to "make power known"

U.S. retail produce sales: Apples starting to "make power known"

U.S. retail produce sales remained home-centric despite consumer mobility increasing as pre-pandemic normality slowly returns, amid a strong boost in apple sales.

February produce department sales for the five weeks ending Feb. 28 were 10.1 percent higher year-on-year, according to a joint report by 210 Analytics, PMA and IRI.

The figure excludes online-only and delivery e-commerce, which would have been significantly higher than in 2020.

Shelf-stable and frozen fruits and vegetables remained strong, seeing an increase of 7.1 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Even though during the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day, foodservice sales normally see an increase, Joe Watson the Vice President of Membership and Engagement for PMA said: “While restaurants are starting to reopen in many states, retail still saw an above-average boost with many grocers offering meal solutions for Super Bowl entertaining and Valentine’s Day at home”.

“Additionally, everyday demand continues to be elevated as the majority of the nation’s school-aged children remain in virtual or hybrid education and many people are still working from home.”

U.S. retail produce sales were valued at US$5.3 billion during the weeks of February, reflecting $169 million in additional fruit sales and $314 million in additional vegetable sales.

Vegetable sales continue to outpace fruit sales and show double-digit growth for nine out of the 10 items.

“This one more underscores why vegetables have been so dominant throughout the pandemic.”

“With consumers bored with the same old meals and growing tired of cooking so many more meals at home at the same time, it is important to continue to provide tips and suggestions to encourage variety and trial,” Watson said.

Regarding fruit, berries led the Top 10 in absolute dollar gains once again generating an additional $50.3 million in sales, according to Watson.

The top growers in February report seven vegetables and the only three fruits including berries, mandarins and apples.

However, apples are starting to “make their size and power known”, Jonna Parker Team Lead Fresh for IRI said, “generating nearly $330 million and matching their January gain of 5.1 percent”.

Citrus fruit continued to grow at a quick pace, up 16.6 percent in February with lemons and oranges being the fastest-growing, while only grapes lost ground year-on-year.

In March, sales will go up against the two biggest weeks in the history of grocery retailing and will likely turn negative versus a year ago according to the report.

However, based on the pattern of the last few months, sales are likely still going to track ahead against the baseline of 2019.