Fresh produce prices continued to increase in September versus their year-ago levels, but much less so than total food and beverages, according to Circana, 210 Analytics and the International Fresh Produce Association.
On a per-pound basis, fruit prices increased by 1.3 percent year-on-year whereas vegetable prices were nearly flat, with just a small increase of 0.5 percent in September.
The four weeks generated $58.2 billion total food and beverage sales, up 0.2 percent over September 2022, though unit sales trailed behind.
Perishables, including produce, seafood, meat, bakery and deli, had a below-average dollar growth performance but this was entirely prompted by the different levels of inflation.
September 2023 fresh produce sales reached $5.7 billion.
“What a performance by the fresh produce department with gains in dollars, units and pounds,” said Joe Watson, IFPA’s VP of retail, foodservice and wholesale.
“The third consecutive month of positive pound ground marks the official comeback for the department going into the fall months.”
The first week of September had a small holiday boost, at $1.5 billion versus $1.4 billion the remaining three weeks.
Total store comparison
“The fresh produce share in September was not as high as other years,” said Jonna Parker, team lead fresh for Circana.
“However, this has everything to do with the big difference in inflationary levels that boost dollar gains for frozen and shelf-stable, while fresh has the far better unit performance.
Fresh produce dollars versus volume
Three months of positive pound gains averaged into a 1.4 percent increase in pounds for fresh produce during the third quarter of the year when compared to 2022.
Fresh fruit sales
“Berries, grapes and apples were the dollar leaders in September,” Watson said.
“The four September weeks generated $615 million in berry sales alone with substantial dollar and pound gains. Seasonal powerhouse cherries made way for peaches and pineapples.”
Other fruits with increased volume sales were melons, avocados, mandarins, mixed fruit and pineapples.
Fresh vegetables sales
“The dollar and pound performance among the Top 10 vegetable sellers was all over the board,” Parker said.
“Tomatoes remain a remarkable story with strong volume sales pushing dollars 3.1 percent over year-ago levels.”
Other vegetables with year-over-year pound increases were onions, peppers, carrots and cucumbers.
Fresh produce absolute dollar gains
The improvement in pound sales is seen in the Top 10 commodities that added the most new dollars as well.
Whereas earlier in the year inflation was a primary driver of the top 10 in absolute dollar gains, eight items experienced pound growth in September when compared to last year.
Berries added the most new dollars at $612 million, followed by melons and grapes. Plums and peaches are new additions this month.
Read more produce news from The Shelby Report.