Two years ago, Tony Freytag gave a presentation at the U.S. Apple Association’s Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference on the explosive growth of fresh-cut apple sales.
Two years later, his message hasn’t changed much. Speaking again, at Outlook ‘09 Aug. 20 in Chicago, Freytag, national marketing director for Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak, said the value-added fresh category continues to do well, despite the recession.
About 68% of retailers sold sliced apples in 2007, Freytag said. Now, 86% of them do.
About $66 million in sales in 2007 mushroomed to $100 million over a 52-week period ending in August, he said. Granted, sales have been flat over the past year, Freytag said, but that’s better than other fruit categories, which have suffered sales declines because of the recession. Bagged-salad sales, for instance, were down 3.2% in the past year.
“We’ve held our own in a very difficult economic time,” he said.
Other changes from 2007 in the sliced category are in selection and pack size, Freytag said. The typical store two years ago may have offered a sweet pack of sliced apples, a tart pack and a mixed pack. Today, consumers are more likely to have the opportunity to buy an organic pack, an apple-and-grape pack and other combinations of sliced apples and other fresh-cut fruit.
The average size of a retail fresh-cut pack was in the 13-ounce range in 2007, and now it’s closer to 7 ounces, Freytag said. Forty percent of packs in 2009 are 6 ounces or smaller.
In this economy, Freytag said, the lure of going small is getting under a buck.
“Ninety-nine cents is a magic number,” he said. “Not a lot of thought goes into buying something that’s under a dollar.”
On the foodservice side, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and several other fast-food outlets continue to have success with their fresh-cut apple offerings, he said.
Another bright spot on the foodservice side is the introduction of sliced apples into the nation’s schools, Freytag said. In March, about 2.9 million pounds of apples were purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a sliced-apple pilot program.
The program could expand to include the entire country, he said. A “big push” from both President Obama and the First Lady hasn’t hurt.
“More money than ever is about to flow into school cafeterias for healthier meals,” Freytag said.