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Consumers Increase Produce Purchases Due To Favorable Prices

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Last updated on June 8th, 2023 at 05:48 pm

The April Circana sales results and survey of primary grocery shoppers underscore that economic pressure on income continues to result in consumers moving around dollars between channels, products and brands. Circana, 210 Analytics and the International Fresh Produce Association have teamed up to document the impact on sales patterns in fresh produce. 

April fresh produce sales reached $5.9 billion. “The strengthening demand for fruit in reaction to deflationary conditions is a very positive sign going into the summer months,” said Joe Watson, IFPA’s VP, retail, foodservice and wholesale.

“There is typically a lag between improvements in pricing levels at retail and strengthening demand. We certainly saw that for fruit as well. But fresh fruit has experienced positive unit and volume growth for two consecutive months now and that bodes well for continued strength going into the big summer and grilling seasons.” 

Weekly fresh produce sales averaged between $1.41 billion and $1.57 billion. “April year-over-year weekly sales comparisons were highly affected by the timing of Easter and Passover which moved forward by week,” Watson said. “This explains the sales pressure the third week of April when going up against last year’s Easter sales. 

“The difference in inflationary levels between fresh, frozen and canned is staggering,” said Jonna Parker, team lead, fresh for Circana. “The average price per pound for fresh produce was flat whereas the price per pound across frozen fruits and vegetables increased 21.3 percent between April 2022 and April 2023.”

Fresh produce pound sales had been trailing behind year ago levels since April 2021, but had seen steady improvements since the third quarter of 2022. In April, pound sales exceeded year-ago levels by 0.6 percent.

The increase in fresh produce volume sales was driven by fruit, that experienced a 2.1 percent increase in pounds sold in April compared with April 2022. Vegetables did not quite reach year-ago levels, but moved within one percentage point of the April 2022 levels. 

“Fruit sales were a mix of dollar gains and losses and a mix of unit gains and losses in April,” Parker said.

“Avocados are a perfect example of the pricing conundrum in the current marketplace. The average price per pound for avocados was down 26.6 percent in April 2023 versus April 2022. This prompted a year-on-year increase of 10.5 percent in pounds, but it meant dollar sales fell by 19 percent.” Other items with increased volume sales were melons, mandarins, pineapples and mixed fruit. 

Items with increased dollar sales in April compared with last year were berries, bananas, melons, pineapples and mixed fruit.    

“Vegetables experienced a more mixed performance in April,” Watson said. “Three items increased pound sales, being onions, peppers and cucumbers, though more managed to grow year-over-year dollar sales with the help of price increases.

The dual power of value versus convenience can be seen in sales for both lettuce and salad kits, the No. 3 and 4 sellers. However, whereas lettuce grew dollar sales, salad kits’ sales decreased in both pounds and dollars. 

In April, fresh vegetables added $41.6 million in additional dollars versus April 2022, whereas total fruit lost $10 million year-over-year. 

Berries were the biggest contributor to new produce dollars, followed by potatoes, melons and lettuce. Melons increased on the combination of inflation and increased demand, whereas the additional dollars for berries, potatoes and lettuce were inflationary gains.

The meat department had the highest sales in April at $6.5 billion; produce was in second. While the department experienced a decline in dollar sales, the produce department was the only one to achieve dollar and unit growth versus April 2022 levels. 

For more produce news from The Shelby Report, click here.

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