Spurred by average retail prices that were up 9% compared with year-ago levels, third quarter 2011 supermarket produce sales tallied gains of 5.7% in the latest Fresh Facts report.

However, volume declines accompanied higher retail prices, with the report revealing total fresh volume was off by 3% in the third quarter.

The report, issued by the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association in association with the West Dundee, Ill.-based Perishables Group and Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., showed retail fruit volume declined at a much faster rate than vegetables.

Sales of fresh fruit were up 6.2% for the third quarter, while volume was 4.3% down. Meanwhile, sales of fresh vegetables were 4.7% higher in the third quarter, with volume off 2.2% compared with a year ago.

Weekly dollar sales per store were higher for all of the top ten fruit commodities except melons (down 2.8%) and grapes (down 0.3%). However, only berries, bananas and cherries of the top 10 fruit items showed volume increases in the third quarter. Cherries showed the biggest gain in sales and volume, with sales up 26.9% based on a 22.8% increase in volume and a 3.3% increase in average retail prices. Melon volume sagged by more than 11% in the third quarter, apparently slowed by lower demand caused by the foodborne listeria outbreak linked to Colorado cantaloupe.

In the vegetable category, all but one of the top ten vegetables showed a sales increase in the third quarter. Onion sales were off 14.1% in the third quarter, driven down by prices that were 14.6% lower compared with a year ago. Volume gains in the vegetable category were recorded for packaged salad (up 0.7%), tomatoes (up 7.6%), onion (up 0.6%), peppers (up 3.3%), carrots (up 0.6%) and mushrooms (up 6.8%).

Value added strength

The report showed that both dollars and volume showed gains for value added fruits and vegetables. The Fresh Facts report showed that dollars grew 8.3% and volume increased 5.3% for value added fruit, while sales of value added vegetables rose 6.8% and volume of value added vegetables sold jumped 7.1%.

Organic produce also displayed continuing strength, the report showed. Organic vegetable sales were up 10.9% in the third quarter, and volume was 8.9% above year-ago levels. Organic fruit sales were 11.7% above the third quarter of last year, with volume of organic fruit sold up 0.4%.

For more information about the full report, which is free for United Fresh members and $50 for non-members, contact Shannon Young, United Fresh education manager, at 202-303-3405.






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