Potatoes, oranges driving fresh produce sales

by Craig Levitt | April 27, 2020

copingorpaCOVID-19 shopping restrictions have now been in place for six weeks. Not surprisingly, fresh produce sales have ebbed and flowed in this time. According to IRI, for the week ended April 12 dollar sales of fresh produce were the highest since the week ended March 22.

Much of that could be attributed to fresh vegetables, which was up 25.6 percent compared to the similar time period last year. Fresh produce sales were 16.3 percent, up from 14.2 percent for the week ended April 5. Fresh fruit sales once again saw a slight dip, up 7 percent, down from 7.4 percent the week prior.

Consumers are still splitting their produce purchases three ways — fresh, frozen, shelf-stable — and it while fresh sales are enjoying a bump, frozen (up 44.6 percent compared to last year) and shelf-stable (up 41.8 percent) remain leagues ahead.

“There has been some concern in the industry that consumers are perhaps refraining from purchasing fresh produce out of safety worries,” said Jonna Parker, team lead, fresh for IRI. “There certainly seems to be anecdotal evidence of that, but we’re also seeing somewhat lower household engagement for the four weeks ending April 5, at 94.6 percent versus the 99.3 percent household engagement over the 52-week look. This difference could indeed indicate some people pulling back on fresh produce. At the same time, our survey work shows that 18 percent of consumers plan to purchase more fresh foods and the rising produce growth rates are evidence of that.”

As has been the case since the onset of COVID-19, potatoes remain the lead growth driver in the produce department. The week ended April 12 saw the second-biggest increase, up 74.3 percent (the week ended March 22 was up 114.7 percent). Of note within fresh vegetable sales was asparagus, which was up nearly 30 percent after being up only 1.4 percent the week prior and down more than 8 percent two weeks prior.  

On the fruit side, berries had the highest weekly sales at $158 million, while oranges and lemons, up 58.4 percent and 43.6 percent, respectively, had the greatest increases.

“Oranges are on a remarkable growth path,” said Parker. “Since mid-March, orange sales has been up around 60 percent each week year-over-year. I suspect this is directly related to the versatility of oranges as a snack, side or in smoothies, as well as the health halo it enjoys among consumers, particularly related to building the immune system. Calling out nutritional benefits of various fruits and vegetables was something we encouraged grower/shippers and retailers to do pre-pandemic and even more so now.”

USDA cites Ohio business for $800K PACA violations
As a part of its efforts to enforce the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and ensure fair trading practices within the U.S. produce industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has imposed sanctions on PK Produce Inc. in Canton, OH, for failing to meet its contractual obligations to the sellers of produce it Read More ...
Sobeys expands curbside pickup service
Sobeys is expanding its e-commerce offering to Atlantic Canada with the launch of Voilà by Sobeys Curbside Pickup. Now available at three Sobeys store locations in Nova Scotia, the new service offers a freshness guarantee and products at affordable prices with no hidden fees. Orders are assembled with care by Voilà by Read More ...
IPC helps foodservice operators make changes to meet COVID-era challenges
Portability, profitability, innovation and menu simplification. Those topics were the themes of a webinar presented by the Idaho Potato Commission as part of Restaurants Rise, an initiative launched in May by Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality. The initiative has included live virtual events to aid Read More ...
Indianapolis Fruit Co. expands robust team
Indianapolis Fruit Co. remains focused on being a leading super-regional produce and specialty foods distributor providing premium quality products and unprecedented customer experiences through experts who care. The company, a business unit of IF&P Foods and the FreshEdge Group of Cos., primarily services the retail Read More ...
Meijer vet joins SpartanNash leadership
SpartanNash Co. has hired Shaquanda Gordon as vice president of human resources, talent and diversity. Gordon will build on the company's efforts to ensure a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce by driving the overall human capital strategy for the organization. In this newly created position, she will lead the human Read More ...