- The dollar amount of average weekly sales in the produce department fell for the second consecutive quarter compared to last year, according to a new report from the United Fresh Produce Association. More clean-eating options throughout the store could be the cause of the sales dip.
- Organic produce continues to thrive, comprising 10% of all produce sales in the quarter. Organic packaged salads and organic berries were listed as top sellers.
- Sales of value-added fruit — like cut-up mango — fell. However, value-added vegetables — like riced cauliflower — rose. The lower demand for pre-cut fruit is blamed on higher prices.
The produce department of the market is continuing to lose consumers' interest — except for the organic section. For the first time, organic sales reached double digits, accounting for 10 cents of every produce dollar. Increased availability and competitive pricing have helped this section continue to surge. Sales may slow down for organic in the future, but likely not to the extent currently affecting conventional produce.
Price remains a top barrier to buying fruits and vegetables. In a recent survey from Category Partners and Beacon Research Solutions, more than half of produce buyers cited cost as the main reason they would pass on certain items. The survey also found that disappointing appearance — including poor color and likelihood of spoilage — was the other main detractor.
There are also more healthy options popping up in other parts of the grocery store. Frozen produce has been proven to be just as nutritious, if not moreso, than fresh counterparts. Homemade smoothies are an increasingly popular breakfast item, so consumers could be turning to cheaper frozen berries and greens to toss in the blender. In addition, innovative frozen items, like cauliflower pizza crust and veggie tots, are grabbing shoppers’ attention.
There will always be demand for fresh produce, but this study shows that the demand may be waning for a while. While consumers overall say they’re trying to eat more healthfully, many also don’t have the time or inclination to make each meal from scratch and work with raw fruits and vegetables.
The solution to these conflicting values of health versus time could be on-the-go produce and next level value-added vegetables and fruit. On-the-go produce snacking options recently topped $1 billion in sales, yet only one third of households purchased these products in the last year. If food producers can find a way to jazz up on-the-go options, beyond carrot sticks and peanut butter, there is tremendous opportunity for growth.
In addition, markets may lure back produce shoppers by incorporating value-added vegetables and fruits into an in-store meal kit. Home delivery meal kits have ballooned to a $5 billion industry with 90% customer satisfaction. Large grocery chains can jump on this trend by offering a more affordable version with pre-cut produce to lessen prep time.