The multi-month normalization of grocery shopping patterns came to a halt in August. “Since January 2021, we had been seeing the share of meals prepared at home decrease a little each month,” said Jonna Parker, Team Lead Fresh with IRI. “However, with the elevation of COVID-19 cases in the past month, IRI’s latest survey wave among primary shoppers found that the share of meals prepared at home increased once more to nearly 80% from 76.6% in July.”
At the same time, the survey found that people were a little less likely to eat on premise at restaurants. After reaching a high of 50% of primary shoppers in July, the share dropped to 48% in August. Restaurant takeout remained at its high pandemic levels: 53% of consumers have gotten takeout and 20% had restaurant food delivered in the past few weeks.
“Additionally, August saw a bit of an uptick in ecommerce orders after several months of trips moving back to in-person visits,” said Parker. Combined, all these changes point to the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country prompting some reversal in the normalization of grocery shopping patterns.
Week-by-week sales fresh produce
Fresh produce accomplished very consistent sales each of the five August weeks, right around $1.4 billion. That meant an uptick over year-ago levels most weeks.
Combined, the five August weeks generated $7.0 billion, which was up 1% year-over-year and 12% over pre-pandemic August 2019.
“August delivered the strongest year-on-year results we have seen since having to go up against the pandemic sales peaks in March,” said Joe Watson, VP of Membership and Engagement for PMA. “Once more, it was fruit sales that boosted overall fresh produce sales past year ago levels, but vegetables had a very strong August as well, now within just two points from the 2020 sales levels.
Fresh fruit sales in August
“Cherry season is always fast and their top three sales rank placement was short lived,” said Parker. “Yet, cherry sales remain in the top 10, with apples, grapes bananas and avocados showing strong sales. Importantly, all but three fruits managed to improve sales year-over-year in August and apples and mixed fruit grew sales by double digits. Deflation in avocados has been pulling sales down for a while, even though engagement and volume sales are strong.”
Berries, apples, bananas and grapes have been steady top 10 sellers, but mandarins, peaches, cherries and mixed fruit are all relative newcomers. Cherries and peaches tend to have short selling seasons and mandarins replaced oranges to represent citrus fruits.
Fresh vegetable sales in August
“Vegetables generated about $3.2 billion in August sales with many of the same powerhouses we have seen all year,” said Watson. “Mushrooms climbed a bit higher in the rankings with nice year-on-year gains and broccoli bumped corn out of the top 10.”
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