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Elevate the apple category with a versatile product mix

Fast Facts: The Cast video series is back with Roger Pepperl, Stemilt’s marketing director, and Senior Marketing Manager Brianna Shales, who broke down the latest apple category data from Nielsen. The data set that reviews the last 12 weeks of retail data ending Sept. 26 shows apples continue to be a hot produce item, and Stemilt advises retailers to carry a versatile product mix to elevate the category during peak apple months.

“We saw that retailers sold 1.5 percent more pounds of apples over the past three months when compared to the same time the year prior while dollars were flat, up just 0.7 percent,” said Shales. “This shows us that gains in both dollars and pounds in the category is great, especially when two of the three months were a slower time in general for apples as we transitioned between crops. Overall, we had good availability of apples during this timeframe and had been riding a COVID-19 wave where apple sales were up considerably more than this data set shows.”

Pouch bag of applesWith current apple trends, Shales suggests that retailers should look at some promotion changes to help the category moving forward, especially with peak apple season approaching and more varieties will be available. It is crucial for retailers to carry multiple varieties so that one variety alone doesn’t dominate the category like Honeycrisp did over the last 12 weeks.

“Honeycrisp lead the category this month, doubling its digit dollar and volume. Honeycrisp was up 17 percent in sales dollars year-over-year and made up nearly one-third of apple category sales. Fuji also grew in dollars by 8 percent and nearly 6 percent in pounds, while the other varieties showed a decline on dollars,” explains Shales. “While all five varieties [Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith and Red Delicious] showed increases year-over-year, what is bothersome is the fact that we aren’t seeing that extra volume translate to more dollars for core varieties.”

Data showed that almost half the gain of Honeycrisp came at the decline of Red Delicious. While this may not be negative, the category needs the support of other core varieties like Fuji, Gala, and Granny Smith, as well as new varieties, such as Rave and SweeTango if the retailer wants to see the category elevate as a whole.

“If retailers want to see category numbers increase, they should run multi-variety ads that feature multiple core values, as well as some standalone ads on premium varieties,” said Shales. “Packaged apples are also a trending item and show great potential to move more volume at a stronger retail price while bulk apple sales are down.”

Packaged apples have seen a huge uptick in movement due to COVID-19 and this latest data reveals that 37 percent of apple sales were from bags, compared to 33 percent last year. This means that retailers should be working with Stemilt to carry a multitude of bag options, especially five-pound bag options, which work especially well with the consumer’s current “stock-up” mindset since store trip frequency is down.

“It is important retailers focus on the four Ps — product, placement, promotion, and price,” said Shales. “Apples sets should be front and center, and top of mind for consumers. Be sure that packaging is a decent part of your mix, especially during these COVID times since shoppers seek quick grab-and-go options.”

Stemilt also advises to promote organic often. Focusing on core varieties and packaging options, like Stemilt’s three-pound Lil Snappers kid fruit size packs, is a great opportunity to elevate the category. Organic packaging is following the same trend as conventional, so providing organic consumers with a large product mix will bode well with shoppers.

“Whether it's organic or conventional, apples are an attractive produce item to grocery shoppers right now,” said Shales. “Both in-store and online sets should represent that apples are in full season and what better way to elevate the apple category than with Stemilt’s World Famous apples.”

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December 2, 2020

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