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Consumers want it in the bag

copbagThe combination of an early Easter holiday and continued increased demand due to COVID-19 has led to another strong week of produce sales for the week ended April 5. Fresh produce sales increased 14.2 percent versus the comparable week in 2019, according to IRI.

Potato sales continue to thrive, selling $35 million more than the comparable week last year, a 66.9 percent increase. Berries, onions, tomatoes and oranges were also high on consumer shopping lists, up $17 million, $15 million, $15 million and $14 million, respectively. Percentagewise, carrots (up 25 percent in dollars) and avocados (up almost 20 percent in dollars) also continue to generate sales.

“Avocados, onions and carrots are three big ones that jump out at me,” said Joe Watson, vice president of membership and engagement for the Produce Marketing Association. “Others outside the top 10 in absolute dollar growth were limes (16 percentage point volume/dollar gap), asparagus (13 points), Brussels sprouts (14 points), cabbage (12 points) and celery (30 points).”

After a modest increase last week, fresh fruit sales saw a healthy 7.4 percent gain for the week ended April 5. In addition to berries, oranges and avocados doing well, lemon sales were up 42.2 percent while bananas reached $69 million.

“While challenging given shoppers’ current grocery shopping patterns, generating demand is crucial for fresh fruit,” said Jonna Parker, team lead, fresh for IRI. “Fruit typically benefits from eye-catching displays and impulse sales and the early indicators are fewer trips and more online ordering for the foreseeable future. I’m encouraged to see retailers leverage oranges merchandised as vitamin C displays and introduce more bagged produce to help speed up shopping and give consumers ease of mind.”

Not surprisingly, bagged produce is a priority for many consumers, according to data from the Retail Feedback Group’s Constant Customer Feedback program. Here are just a few comments from shoppers:

  • “Many produce items are loose and unbagged, thus allowing the potential for contact by other customers.”
  • “I suggest bagging produce items prior to putting items out on shelves.”
  • “I love the touchless hand washing station in the entry way. It would be nice to see that in the produce section as well. I imagine people touching fruits and veggies and then putting them back is a good way to spread disease.”

“Despite continued reassurances that fresh produce is safe to consume, we are dealing with a situation where perception is reality,” said Parker.

Fresh vegetables were up 21.4 percent for the tracked period, paced by the afore mentioned potatoes, onions and carrots. Mushroom sales also increased by more than 25 percent for the week ended April 5. 

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