Autumn Glory, Cosmic Crisp enjoy nationwide growth
December was a very strong month for apples and pears, which were up 7 percent and 12 percent in dollar sales, respectively. Double-digit organic growth in both categories, combined with strong showings by core and emerging apple varieties, drove the great results.
Core and emerging apple varieties led dollar growth in December. Core varieties (Honeycrisp, Gala, Granny Smith, and Fuji) all had steady growth, ranging from 3-15 percent. Proprietary varieties, including Cosmic Crisp and Autumn Glory boasted large dollar gains. These gains were partially offset by dollar declines in Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Cortland and Braeburn.
Autumn Glory apple saw record December shipments, and we witnessed its growth nationwide. Sales were up 54 percent, and volume was up 102 percent. Autumn Glory excelled nationally, growing sales and volume by double- or triple-digits in most regions. Cosmic Crisp apple continues to grow strongly, but is not to the level witnessed in December 2019. Cosmic Crisp nationally was up 7 percent in dollars, and 18 percent in pounds.
Some regions saw sales growth in the triple digits, West North Central (+167 percent) and East South Central (+152 percent), while regions that carried Cosmic Crisp sales in 2019 slowed momentum: Pacific (-33 percent) and Mountain (-7 percent). Cosmic Crisp availability spread nationally, due to increased volumes in the second year. Strong consumer programs continue the momentum of 2019, but there is much opportunity for retailers to help with merchandising programs. The Cosmic Crisp retailer tool-kit is an excellent resource for building displays and digital programs.
December apple growth was strong, with category dollars up 7 percent, though volume was flat at 0.3 percent. The average price per pound was up 6.6 percent to $1.67. Retail prices were all moving to the industry average. Proprietary varieties decreased to become more competitive with core and mature varieties. Core and mature varieties, however, rose in price with increased demand and the market rising, overall helping category growth. The proprietary price decline was evident with Cosmic Crisp, declining 9 percent to $2.65 per pound, and Autumn Glory declining 24 percent to $1.85 per pound. All other proprietary varieties also experienced a decrease in price per pound as well.
The pear category was up 12 percent in sales, and 6 percent in volume. Average price per pound was up 5 percent to $1.60 per pound. Strong sales were a result of strong core pear growth: Bartlett (17 percent), Anjou (11 percent), Bosc (12 percent), and Asian pears (8 percent), along with Red Bartletts that were up an outstanding 107 percent in sales. Asian pears experienced a stellar 21.8 percent increase of price per pound to $4.96. Superfresh Growers will have a steady supply of Asian pears through the spring.
Organic apple share continued at a record percentage of 15.9 percent of category dollars, and 11.4 percent in volume. Organics sales are up 10 percent, though volume is flat at -0.9 percent. Price per pound is up 11 percent to an average of $2.29.
Organic pear growth continued its momentum from November, up 11 percent in dollars, and 13 percent in volume. They still had a high category share of 15 percent for dollars, and 11 percent for volume, though those were down from record November percentages.
Packaged apples and pears have remained strong during COVID-19, though they had moved to pre-COVID volume averages in October and November. For December, we are seeing slight rises over pre-COVID averages again. 41 percent of apple volume was packaged compared to the pre-COVID average of ~40 percent. Packaged pear volume was 21 percent compared to the pre-COVID average of ~18-20 percent. Nationally spiking numbers of COVID-19 cases seem to be shifting focus back to packaged apples and pears for convenience and perceived food safety.