Sales increases at retail generally better than whole produce

Retail sales of fresh-cut fruit products rose slightly in 2008, as did the average retail price for value-added fruit. Fresh-cut vegetable dollar sales and volume at retail dropped slightly in 2008, but the average retail price was higher than 2007, according to “Fresh Facts on Retail,” a report for United Fresh Produce Association compiled by The Perishables Group.

The study compiled sales data from the second quarter of 2008, March 30 through June 28, and compared the numbers with the same quarter in 2007. More than 13,000 supermarkets were included in the report, or 62 percent of the all-commodity-value supermarket share. Wal-Mart Stores, club stores, independent retailers and alternative chain stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Markets were not included in the data.

On average, the total dollar sales for the produce department in a retail market were $42,745 a week, an increase of more than 3 percent over 2007. Fruit products accounted for almost half of the retail sales, increasing nearly 4 percent from 2007 to $21,321 a week. Vegetables totaled $18,618 a week, an increase of almost 2 percent. The remaining $2,807 included other products sold in the produce department – nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, dried fruit, snack mixes and beverages. That category was up almost 10 percent over the same time in 2007, showing increased consumer interest, according to the report.

The weekly volume of produce sold in retail produce departments was down 4 percent from 2007 on average, with fruit volume at 15,076 pounds a week – a drop of nearly 5 percent – and vegetables at 13,440 pounds per week – a 4 percent decrease.

Average retail prices may have contributed to the drop in volume, according to the report. The average retail price (total dollars divided by total volume) of fruit items jumped 9 percent from the same time in 2007 to $1.41. The average retail price of vegetables also increased by 6 percent to $1.39.

Consumers continue to demand value-added fruit and vegetable products for convenience and healthful benefits. Nearly all segments of the fresh-cut market at retail increased from 2007, according to the Perishables Group findings.

Fruit

Fresh-cut fruit averaged $1,181 in weekly dollar sales, about 1 percent higher than the same time in 2007. Volume decreased slightly to an average of 292 fresh-cut fruit items sold each week. The average price for fresh-cut fruit was up more than 1 percent to $4.04.

Overwrapped fruit items – quarters, halves, wedges, etc. – averaged $334 in sales each week and the average number of those items sold dropped almost 6 percent to 364. The average retail price, however, was 92 cents, an increase of almost 5 percent from 2007.

The biggest gains in value-added fruit were seen in jars and cups, which were identified as fresh fruit in juice or preservatives in the report. The category saw a 13 percent increase in average weekly sales over 2007, to $171 per store. Volume was 108 units a week, an increase of more than 26 percent, but the average retail price decreased more than 10 percent to $1.59 per unit.

Vegetables

The value-added vegetable segment decreased in both average weekly dollar sales and volume, but most value-added items did quite well. Total weekly dollar sales averaged $762 and volume was 245 items per week. Side dishes account for almost half of the value-added vegetable segment, and weekly dollar sales increased slightly from the same time in 2007 to $366 per week. Volume dropped slightly from the previous year, but average retail price increased almost 4 percent to $2.90.

Vegetable trays make up about a quarter of the value-added segment, but trays performed poorly in 2008 compared to the previous year. Weekly dollar sales dropped 13 percent to $177 and volume fell almost 16 percent to 18 units per week. Price may have contributed to the poor performance of vegetable trays, which averaged $9.59 per unit, an increase of almost 3 percent from the same period in 2007.

Meal preparation ingredients and snacks from the produce department combined for a little more than a quarter of the value-added vegetable segment. Both categories increased in weekly dollar sales, volume and average retail price.

Bagged Salads

Packaged salads were not included in the overall value-added vegetable segment because their impact on the produce department of a supermarket is so great. Packaged salads were the highest-grossing vegetable products for the supermarkets in the study. On average, sales were $2,919 a week for packaged salads, an increase of almost 2 percent over 2007. Volume for the salad items declined about 2 percent, making them third in overall volume for vegetable items behind potatoes and tomatoes. Average retail price for packaged salads was $2.67 in the second quarter of 2008, 4 percent higher than that quarter in 2007. The 4 percent increase in retail price was one of the smallest among the Top 10 vegetable items.

Deli

As marketers and fresh-cut processors look for new outlets for their products, prepared, ready-to-eat produce is increasingly more common in the deli department. Deli departments also are increasing in size as more consumers look for in-home meal replacements that are fresh and healthful.

Entrée salads were the most popular value-added deli item, averaging $656 in weekly sales across the reporting supermarkets, according to the study. That’s a slight increase over the same time in 2007, but overall volume for entrée salads was down about 4 percent.

Prepared vegetables accounted for $201 in weekly sales dollars in the deli department, an increase of more than 4 percent. Volume also was up over 2007 by 3 percent.

Fruit salads, while averaging only $47 per week in dollar sales, saw the largest percentage increase in dollar sales and volume from the previous year, indicating greater consumer interest in mixed fruit products in the deli department. Average weekly dollar sales increased more than 8 percent and weekly average volume was up almost 9 percent per store.

The report shows shoppers are losing interest in trays and platters, as seen in the deli department and the overall produce department. In the deli, fruit platter dollar sales dropped almost 7 percent and vegetable platter dollar sales were down more than 10 percent from 2007. Average volume for fruit platters did increase almost 9 percent, but volume for vegetable platters decreased by nearly 16 percent. Trays with cheeses and fruit sold in the deli department also suffered, with dollars sales averaging only $8 per week, a decrease of 18 percent, and volume also down 19 percent.

Organics

Organic produce as a whole continued its growth trend in the second quarter of 2008. Organic fruit’s dollar sales and volume contributed 7 percent to total produce, and organic vegetables contributed almost 6 percent.
Weekly average dollar sales for organic fruit was up 26 percent to $1,535 and organic vegetables were up 22 percent to $1,027. Volume also increased for organic products – 16 percent for fruit and 14 percent for vegetables – even with an increase in average retail prices. Organic fruit averaged $3.71, 17 percent higher than the same quarter in 2007, and organic vegetables averaged $3.46, an 8 percent increase.

Packaged salads led the organic vegetable category in both dollar sales and volume. Supermarkets averaged $373 in weekly sales from organic packaged salads, a 29 percent increase from 2007. Volume increased by 22 percent to 95 units a week per store on average. Retail prices for organic packaged salads crept up 8 percent in 2008 to $3.98.

Few organic categories declined in dollar sales, volume or retail price. Even with higher prices – that continue to rise – consumers still are opting for organic products. The most popular organic fruit by far was berries, which saw an increase of 27 percent in dollar sales, a 17 percent increase in volume and 16 percent increase in price. Following berries in popularity were apples, bananas, grapes and citrus. The most popular organic vegetables were packaged salads, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes and onions.


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