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Dollar-up, volume-down apple trend expected to continue

Stemilt’s Fast Facts are back and the cast starts their fall return by analyzing the last eight weeks of Nielsen retail scan data ending Oct. 4. Stemilt Marketing Director Brianna Shales and Communications Manager Katie Harmon report the latest apple trends as well as provide insight on how to prep for Cosmic Crisp’s arrival in a few short weeks.

Over the last eight weeks, the apple category saw quite a bit of activity thanks to the 2021 crop that began in early August. Branded varieties, like Rave and SweeTango were among the first of premium branded varieties to be available and started the category off well.

“We saw early several apple promotions at the start of the season that helped these two Honeycrisp successors get off on the right foot,” said Shales. “With early shipments of Rave starting in early August, the apple ended up ranking 16th nationally by sales, 12th in the West Coast region and 13th in the Midwest region.”

Shales also said SweeTango performed well, ranking 13th nationally and third for a top club apple; however, peak promotion is just getting started, so a better picture will be available in the next data set. Overall, dollars from apples were up 9 percent when comparing August and September 2021 to 2020 while volume was down at almost 3.5 percent. Shales said this dollars-up-volume-down trend will continue all year as the national apple crop projection is down.

“Due to multiple weather events that occurred all over the country, the national projected crop came in short, so that does create a ripple effect for the rest of the season,” said Shales. “However, that doesn’t mean that is the only thing affecting numbers. Bags have also become a bigger part of the selling mix and they’ve seen a 14 percent increase in dollar sales from a year ago.”

Retailers raised prices on bags thanks to the high demand caused by the pandemic and consumers seeking a no-contact option. Because bags are selling themselves, retailers should be planning several multi-variety ads around bulk size fruit to encourage movement, including both branded and the top five core varieties.

“We didn’t see much of a shift in the top five core varieties compared to last year and Honeycrisp continued to lead the pack at 30 percent of category sales nationally,” said Shales. “Retailers also got after those first new crop promotions, which moved more volumes compared to the same time frame the year prior.”

While Honeycrisp does have an early advantage thanks to its harvest window, retail pricing did stay the same compared to the 2020 crop year while others in the top five saw significant increases year over year.

“It’s great to see retailers taking advantage of the early time frame and gaining momentum on apples,” said Shales. “But it is important that retailers continue to ensure that pricing is in line with the expected lift from the promotion, so they aren’t missing out on dollars.”

Retailers should also get excited about the highly anticipated arrival of Cosmic Crisp. With it going to market earlier than ever — around Nov. 8 — retailers can expect it to drive sales during the next several quarters.

“As retailers plan for the upcoming holiday season and new year, it is important the club apples you choose to carry stand out from other apples as something special,” said Shales. “Use packaging, displays, signage and more to make this distinction which is a challenge given labor and other constraints retailers are facing now. However, when a club apple has a plan and that plan is well-executed, the efforts pay off with both category performance and most importantly, delighted consumers.”

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