Fresh produce prices were up over 2022, but a relatively low 2.4 percent on a per-pound basis, according to a monthly study conducted by IRI, 210 Analytics and the International Fresh Produce Association.
February fresh produce sales reached $5.7 billion, up $18 million from January and an increase of 1.6 percent over February 2022 levels. Fresh fruit prices decreased 3 percent in comparison to February 2022. Vegetable inflation averaged 7.3 percent in February, which is also down from the 52-week levels.
“Consumers are starting to respond to the more favorable pricing in fresh fruit,” said Jonna Parker, team lead, fresh with IRI. “In fact, in the comparison to pre-pandemic sales levels, both fresh fruit and vegetables look quite favorable in unit sales, unlike other categories.”
Weekly sales were fairly consistent in February, averaging around $1.4-1.5 billion each. Pound sales trailed February 2022 by 1.2 percent, with the best year-on-year performance during the final week of the month when pounds sales were virtually on par with the levels seen in February 2022.
“The difference in inflationary levels between fresh, frozen and canned is staggering,” Parker commented. “The averages for the price per unit for frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are up 22.9 percent and 17.7 percent, respectively, compared to just 2.4 percent for fresh. And yet, the survey shows that high price perception for fresh produce among consumers.”
Fresh produce pound sales have trailed behind year ago levels since March 2021, but got to within 1.2 percent of year-ago levels in February 2023. Additionally, more pounds are being sold today than in February 2020, which was still unaffected by the pandemic shopping patterns.
“February brings some good news on the fresh fruit side of things,” Parker said. “For many months we had been reported on inflation-driven gains in the top 10 sellers. This month proves that more favorable pricing can indeed drive demand with year-over-year pound gains for berries, grapes, bananas, avocados, mandarins, melons, mixed fruit and pineapples.”
However, while eight out of the top 10 fruit sellers in February grew pound sales, this did not equate in an equal boost in dollars. Only five out of 10 top sellers increased dollar sales, with avocado sales down double-digits.
The more favorable retail prices for fruit resulted in steady volume sales when compared to February 2022. Volume demand for vegetables continued to trend below year ago levels.
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