United Fresh Produce Association & Nielsen Perishables Group
Produce is a rapidly changing space. During the past 15 years, there’s been a revolution in the availability and applicability of performance and consumer data for fresh produce. With that in mind, Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, in partnership with the Chicago-based Nielsen Perishables Group, enhanced the FreshFacts® at Retail quarterly and Year in Review reports, sponsored by Miami, FL-based Del Monte Fresh Produce, to be more impactful and in line with the perspective and insights needed to help drive our industry forward.
Taking a look back at 2014 trends, U.S. households are spending more money on fresh foods than they did in 2013. The fresh produce department increased both average weekly dollar and volume sales in 2014 and growth outpaced the meat, bakery and seafood departments. Performance data remains a key element of measuring this growth with a spotlight on seasonal categories as a feature of each quarterly report. In Q1 2015, seven of the Top 10 fruit categories (berries, citrus, avocados, specialty fruits, melons, stone fruits and cherries) increased volume sales compared to Q1 2014, but only four of the Top 10 vegetable categories increased dollar and volume sales.
Generational data continues to be a strong factor in measuring merchandising behavior as the industry realizes there are more generational differences in buying behavior now than ever before. Boomers represent nearly 80 million people and account for nearly 39 percent of all produce sales with their significant spending power. They are more likely than the average shopper to purchase convenient items such as value-added fruit. Conversely, Millennials (born between 1980-1995) drive about a quarter of produce sales and buy apples more often, and packaged salad less often, than the average shopper.
“FreshFacts® on Retail provides our member companies with data they can use to understand consumer trends and develop their retail produce strategy,” says Jeff Oberman, vice president, trade relations and Retail-Foodservice Board staff liaison for United Fresh. “Increased category spotlights, deep dives into generational data, as well as insights on produce’s impact across channels and the total store will help our members drive their businesses forward.”
When taking specific commodities into account, the quarterly reports measures retail price and sales trends for the Top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities, as well as value-added, organic and other produce categories. The Q1 2015 report also features insights on organics and value-added produce, as well as category deep dives on popular summer items, including stone fruit, cherries, and sweet corn.
Stone fruit sales struggled during the 2014 peak season (July-Sept.) but still generated nearly 60 percent of annual sales during this period. A national recall caused a supply shortage resulting in significant price increases and corresponding sluggish volume. Barring sudden crop issues, a return to normal prices should generate sales growth this year. Stone fruits also have an opportunity to expand into the pre-cut area, which has continued its rapid growth.
Cherry sales soared during the 2014 peak season as a strong crop resulted in much lower prices than the prior year. With more than half of all cherry sales occurring on promotion, it’s important to advertise it’s cherry season. Cherries also have an opportunity to gain new households purchasing and increase trip frequency, given that both are low compared to other seasonal fruits.
Due to its price point, corn has wide appeal across income groups, yet it only reaches four in 10 U.S. households. Linking corn with other items purchased during grilling season could help increase corn sales. It’s important to remind consumers of fresh corn value versus year-round frozen and canned substitutes.
Produce item sales for salad bars, potato salad, cole slaw and other lettuce salads in the deli are at $405 million, which is up 9.8 percent. The report explores how produce in the deli provides solutions for shoppers seeking, healthy and convenient meal solutions. It also analyses a deeper dive into how the Boomer generation’s spending power impacts the fresh produce industry and a look at perceptions of how different income groups purchase fresh produce.
Value-added fruits and vegetable sales data from Q1 2015 shows they surpassed the $3.6 billion mark annually with 11.5 percent growth over the past full year. This is supported by the Boomer data stated above where value-added fruits and vegetables are most often purchased by this demographic. Although the most affluent households spend a larger share of their perishable spending on produce than the least affluent, produce is still frequently purchased across all income levels.