Fresh produce dollar gains up, but volume sales down

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Fresh produce dollar gains up, but volume sales down

High inflation coupled with continued supply chain challenges have created changes in consumer spending patterns, affecting volume sales, as well as net dollars of fresh produce.

According to a report by 210 Analytics, fresh produce saw above average dollar gains year-on-year in May, thanks to prices being up 9 percent per unit and 10 percent per pound from last year and fruit having double-digit inflation. However, fresh produce pound sales trailed behind year ago levels.

In May 2022 fresh produce sales reached $7.5 billion, surpassing the record set in 2021 by 3 percent. Each of the May weeks generated between $1.4 and $1.6 billion in fresh produce sales, with the week leading up the Memorial Day weekend being the strongest, at $1.6 billion.

Fresh fruit added $146 million in sales and vegetables added $77 million when compared to May 2021. And, in the first quarter of 2022, just under 80 percent of total fruit and vegetable dollars were generated by the fresh produce department. March and April 2022 brought some recovery to the fresh share and May reached the highest share in many months, at 8 percent.

However, volume was consistently down. In May 2022, fresh produce pound sales were down -6 percent year-on-year — its lowest level since the second quarter of 2021. Jonna Parker, Team Lead of the Fresh Foods practice at IRI explained that “the volume pressure came from the fruit side,” as “fruit pound sales were down 3% in May 2022 versus May 2019.”

“In May 2022, berries sales continued to be more than double that of the number two seller, melons,” said Parker. With “pineapples dropped [dropping] out of the top 10, and cherries made [making] their inroads, volume sales were a mix, with increases for berries and grapes, but down results for all other top 10 sellers.” 

“The top 10 [fruits] in absolute dollar gains shows the rising impact of inflation which tends to push shoppers to versatile cooking basics and cost-effective fruits, generally with an eye on shelf life,” continued Parker.

“Berries ruled new dollars for many months on end, but the decrease in the price per pound meant that new dollars were somewhat subdued in May 2022 compared with areas with high inflation, such as avocados and limes. The one contender bucking that trend are grapes, that had a 12% decrease in price, which significantly boosted demand,” she added.

Importantly, compared with 2019, the pre-pandemic normal, fresh produce dollars remained +18% ahead, but pound sales dipped below 2019 levels by -1%. Joe Watson, VP, Retail, Foodservice & Wholesale for IFPA noted: “This marks the first time that volume was unable to hold the line versus pre-pandemic levels.” 

Watson emphasized that “consumers [that] are hyper focused on saving money”, “frozen and shelf-stable” foods, as well as “the impact of supply chain disruption and out-of-stocks” are some of the “many forces at play relative to the volume pressure.” 

With regards to the outlook for fresh produce, Watson concluded: “Opportunities for the summer months lie in the increase in outdoor entertaining where fresh produce plays an important role.” 

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