“That’s a pretty good story for apples, to be able to come through a year where we knew there was going to be a shorter crop in the U.S.” he said.
Lutz said the consumer demand for all the fresh departments in the supermarket is being largely driven by trends toward of health-oriented products, convenience-oriented products, global items and premium indulgent items. “Part of what you are seeing is a greater than average increase in health-oriented products in fresh foods, including fresh produce,” Lutz said.
He cited strong-performing examples in the produce department, including select varieties of grape tomatoes and apples, as evidence of the appeal of premium and convenience items.
In that vein, the Nielsen numbers showed an 11.8% rise in value-added fruit sales in 2012, with volume rising 4.7% and average prices up by 6.8%
Looking ahead to the rest of 2013, Lutz said fresh produce marketers should be optimistic.
“The economy is improving, consumers value our products and there is all sorts of messages in the press about health and why produce is important to diet,” he said.
Consumer expectations for taste, quality and convenience are being met with new varieties and packages, Lutz said.
“If you look across produce, there is a lot of innovation going on within the category and suppliers continue to work hard to continue to get products consumers want to pay for,” he said.