Whole and Fresh Cut Produce Trends - A Review of 2018

Whole and Fresh Cut Produce Trends - Review of 2018

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The United Fresh Produce Association just released its Fresh Facts on Retail Q4 2018 / Year in Review 2018 report, which shows how Produce Department categories performed throughout the entirety of last year.

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Sales data for the report is a “combination of scan and consumer behavior information provided by Nielsen Fresh”. Those surveyed for data include “key retailers from food, mass/supercenter and club chains, or more than 18,000 stores.” Consumer behavior data involves Nielsen’s Homescan Total Shopper View consumer panel, where “more than 60,000 U.S. households report all transactions across all food buying retail outlets.” In short, the results shared in the Fresh Facts on Retail reports are extremely accurate.


The format has slightly changed recently, with more specific commodity trends analyzed rather than entire categories. But that new emphasis makes the information even more relevant for produce merchants across our land.


MERCHANDISING TIP OF THE WEEK. Here is a summary of some of the information shared in Fresh Facts on Retail Q4 2018 / Year in Review 2018:


“Top fruit commodities are declining in sales versus 2017.” (From the Report) “Fruit volume decreased marginally this year (2018) when compared to the corresponding period (2017). This suggests that merely offering healthy products may no longer be enough to drive consumer purchases. However, rapidly growing categories like blueberries, avocados and mandarins helped stabilize overall dollars.”


The top three fruit commodities – apples, grapes, and bananas – showed declines in dollar sales as 2018 was compared to 2017. However, strawberries, avocados, mandarins, blueberries, oranges and raspberries all show sales gains. The biggest gain was for blueberries, with a 9.3% sales gain. In pounds/units, apples, grapes, bananas and strawberries all had declining results. Oranges also showed a slight decline. Avocados, mandarins, blueberries, watermelons and raspberries all sold more pound/units in 2018 than in the previous year.    


“Healthier alternatives and convenience influence vegetable sales.” (From the Report) “Pre-packaged salads, potatoes and bell peppers propelled the dollar growth of vegetables. Consumers are increasingly opting for premium varieties like packaged salads and are ready to pay the price.”


Nine of the ten top vegetable commodities showed sales gains in 2018: pre-packaged salads, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, cucumbers and broccoli showed increases. Only lettuce – among the top ten vegetable commodities – showed declining sales. In pounds/units, salads, onions, bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms and broccoli showed gains, while tomatoes, potatoes and lettuce showed declines.


“Value-added produce booms in popularity.”  (From the Report) “Consumers’ positive attitude towards health and wellness is translating into higher spends in value-added fruits and vegetables. However, key categories like mixed vegetables and broccoli bring the most powerful shoppers to the store. The value-added category is exciting because it gives traditional commodities a chance to break out of demand curve and allow consumers to do in-home cooking using fresh ingredients and prepare simple or quick meals.”


By definition, value-added fruits and vegetables are those items “that have undergone an extra process to enhance their marketability. This could include dicing, cutting or mixing items for the purpose of snacking, easier meal preparation or as a seasoned side dish.” Value-added fruits and vegetables combine to represent 6.3% of total produce sales. In the value-added fruit realm, snacking is the key reason for purchase, representing 99+% of that commodity’s sales. When considering value-added vegetables, about 90% of purchases are for meal preparation, with only 10% used for snacking purposes.


“Organic sales soared in 2018.” (From the Report) “Consumers claim to find organic produce healthier, tastier, or more nutritious than ever. Organic packaged salads continue to resonate among consumers, as there is a huge increase in demand for fresh and sustainable products. In addition, blueberries grew rapidly and posted double-digit growth versus 2017.”


Organic sales – in the produce department – break down this way: 58% are organic vegetables, 37% are organic fruits, and around 5% are organic herbs and spices. All of the top ten organic commodities – pre-packaged salads, apples, carrots, strawberries, bananas, herbs and spices, blueberries, lettuce, tomatoes, and grapes - showed sales increases in 2018. Those same commodities – with the only exception being organic tomatoes – also showed increases in pounds/units. The biggest growth commodity: organic blueberries, growing 33% in sales and nearly 48% in pounds/units.


Hope this information helps you as you plan your promotional and merchandising strategies for 2019…and beyond!         Happy Selling!