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Key apple varieties to drive retail during inflation

As warm weather approaches, seasonal fruits take center stage to staples like apples in the produce department. Fast Facts: The Cast is back once more with Stemilt Marketing Director Brianna Shales and Merchandising Manager Jocelyn Gerard, to share the final data of this year’s apple category from Nielsen over the last 12 weeks from Jan. 9 to April 22.

Inflation has been a hot topic recently and was all the talk at this year’s Produce for Better Health Foundation Consumer Connection annual conference, which took place April 18-20 in Scottsdale, AZ. The two questions we should be asking ourselves are: “How can we drive retail?” and “How do we help our consumers out during these times?”

“One thing that was interesting is that apple prices are up 9.8 percent year over year in the month of March compared to 7 percent inflation for the total produce category,” Shales said. “We’re outpacing the inflation in light of a shorter apple crop and the need for apple retails to keep up with rising production costs.”

Apples made up 6 percent of total produce department sales during this time period. This percent was unchanged from last year at the same time. Nationally, apples were down in volume by 1.2 percent compared to last year. This is based on the crop size and overall apple supply. Apple dollars are now up 9.2 percent year-over-year and have increased 1.2 percent just over the previous 12-week period ending April 22.

“It’s definitely a unique season and unique time with the varieties,” Gerard said. “We have certain varieties that we normally treat as staples that have been in tight supply in past years, but now have strong supplies that make them a promotion opportunity.”

The top five apples by pound remained unchanged: Gala at 22 percent of apple volumes sold, followed by Honeycrisp (18 percent), Fuji (12 percent), Granny Smith (10 percent) and Red Delicious (9.6 percent). Organic apples are down 5 percent in volumes year over year with dollars up 4.7 percent. Organic apples were nearly 12 percent of apple volumes sold during this 12-week period and made up 16.4 percent of apple category dollars. The top three club apples during this time period were: Envy (20 percent of club apple volumes sold), followed by Ambrosia (17.5 percent), and Cosmic Crisp (13.4 percent).

“Pink Lady has been getting super star results over these past 12 weeks,” Gerard said. “Retailers will find opportunities this spring and summer to promote up-and-comers like Cosmic Crisp as it continues to grow in availability.”

Pink Lady, the No. 6 apple, has grown its share of apple volume over the past year in part to excellent crop qualities. It was 6.4 percent of apple volumes compared to 4.3 percent last year. March promotions of Cosmic Crisp led to the variety’s highest volume and sales impact to the category so far this season. Granny Smith is also a key variety for promotion focus in the coming months. Additional promotions will help drive apple volumes while narrowing its 7.8 percent volume decrease compared to last year

“One thing that I saw with Pink Lady apples is that they’ve grown their volume share from 4 percent to 6 percent in this last round of data,” said Shales. “I think that’s really important because we don’t see those types of step ups so its really driven off the crop quality, retailers getting behind that variety, and consumers accepting it and enjoying it.”

In terms of bulk and bag, bag retails have grown nearly double that of bulk apple prices in the last year. They are up 13.4 percent year over year compared to bulk being up 6.9 percent. Approximately 57 percent of apple volumes are selling bulk vs. 42 percent in bags. The volumes of apples sold bulk remain relatively flat compared to the same time last year, and bulk is the main promotion opportunity for retailers in the coming months. The average retail price per pound on apples during the latest 12 weeks was $1.92.

“The top three club apples were Envy Cosmic Crisp and Ambrosia,” said Gerard. “I’ve seen a lot of repeat multi-variety ads from different retailers across the country with two or three club apples that are available at a line price. I still see more need in stores for educating the consumer on the varieties. That is something that needs to improve and will only help sales and recognition through the variety.”

Getting behind varieties like Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Cosmic Crisp will help drive success in the apple category during these late season months. It’s going to be important to not forget about ad placement whether it be an inside ad, a package liner, or an inside ad with proper placement in the produce department.

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June 12, 2024
The spring is shaping up very well at D’Ottavio Farms, thanks to a combination of cooler weather earlier in the season and warmer weather later on. Officials at D’Ottavio, which was founded in 1903… Read More

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