During the week ending July 5, elevated everyday plus holiday demand drove gains of +9.1% for fresh produce — higher than the week prior, but not as high as Father’s Day. Frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables did continue to see double-digit gains, with particular strength for frozen, at +24.4%. Year-to-date, fresh produce sales are up 10.6% over the same time period in 2019. Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 28.0% year-to-date. This is in spite of limited assortment of frozen vegetables and fruit, down -6.7% in average items per store selling. 210 Analytics, IRI and PMA partnered to understand how produce sales continue to develop throughout the pandemic.
- Fresh produce increased +9.1% over the comparable week in 2019.
- Frozen, +24.4%
- Shelf-stable, +18.1%
Source: IRI, Total US, MULO, 1 week % dollar growth vs. year ago
Up from $1.36 billion the final full week of June, fresh produce generated $1.54 billion in sales the week ending July 5 — an additional $129 million in fresh produce sales. Vegetables, up 13.9% from the prior year, had a 8.2 percentage point lead over fruit. Fruit gained 5.2% over last year. This was the second-lowest gain since the week of April 19 (Easter 2019) for both fruit and vegetables, but a big boost over a strong produce week any year.
“Expectations for the holidays were smaller gatherings and unit sales support this assumption,” said Jonna Parker, Team Lead, Fresh for IRI. “Unit purchases in fresh produce increased by 7.1% over the Fourth of July week versus last year, while volume increased 5.1%. This points to more, but smaller, packages sold. This is an important lesson for pre-packaged produce and the types of promotions that will be effective in the current environment.”
While percentage-wise, growth for fresh produce is outdone by frozen and canned, it is important to keep in mind the size of the markets. At $1.5 billion in sales during the week of July 5, fresh produce is significantly larger than shelf stable ($167 million) and frozen fruits and vegetables ($134 million). This means growth percentages for fresh produce are bound to be lower and not reflective of winners in absolute dollar gains or shares.
Fresh produce dollars versus volume
After narrowing significantly during Father’s Day week, the volume/dollar gap jumped back up to reach its highest point since the onset of the pandemic the week of June 28, at 4.2 percentage points. Independence Day week, the gap was exactly 4 percentage points — mild compared to areas like the meat department.
The gap was driven by both vegetables and fruit. Recovering from being down the week prior, fruit volume gained 3.5% over the same week last year. But fruit dollars outpaced fruit volume during the week ending July 5 by 1.7 percentage points. In vegetables, dollar gains also outpaced volume, at +13.9% versus +7.8%. At 6.1 percentage points, the gap reached its widest point since the onset of the pandemic.
The holiday week drove changes among the top 10 highest in absolute dollar gains once more. Jumping from third to first place, berries overtook tomatoes with an additional $14 million in sales the holiday week versus year ago. “The largest fruit category drove the highest absolute dollar gains this week,” said Watson. “Reclaiming the top spot was particularly meaningful for berries given that volume gains outpaced dollar gains by 16.5 percentage points. The holiday week also brought summer holiday powerhouses back into the top 10, including melons and corn. Mushrooms and oranges continue on their incredible sales journeys that started mid March and just do not seem to be slowing down any time soon.”
However, dollar gains alone do not tell the full story. Supply and demand continued to be significantly out of balance for some categories. Ample supply is driving higher volume than dollar gains for items such as avocados, celery and berries. On the other hand, dollar gains are far outpacing volume for items such as corn, cherries and asparagus. “Corn on price per volume basis is up 52.6% versus the same week last year,” said Watson. “I remember many years of seeing fresh corn six or eight for a dollar, now I am seeing a lot of two for $1 or three for $2. This results in dollar gains of 18.6%, but volume sales being off 22.3% and can also drive some people to purchasing canned or frozen corn.”