Sell. More. Apples.
That’s the point, isn’t it? Sherry Frey, vice president of Chicago-based Nielsen Perishables Group, had a presentation at the U.S. Apple Association’s Apple Crop Outlook & Marketing Conference that sought to illuminate the forest of retail trends that apple marketers with acres of high density apple trees don’t always see.
Frey, in an Aug. 21 talk titled “How to Win in a rapidly changing retail and consumer environment,” observed that the channels where apples and all food are sold to the consumers are evolving, she said.
While the 63% of all perishable spending occurs in the traditional grocery store, other formats are growing faster in recent years.
U.S. grocery stores numbered about 33,445 stores at the beginning of 2014, up from 7% from 2007. Smaller format stores such as Trader Joe's and Aldi are seeing the most growth in the grocery category, she said.
Frey said that drug stores that sell food increased from 21% from 2007 to 2014, reaching 41,378 stores at the start of 2014.
The expansion of dollar stores has been dramatic, with the 25,486 stores counted in 2014 up 36% in seven years.
The number of convenience stores in U.S. totaled more than 151,000 in 2014, up a whopping 32% from 2007, Frey said.
"The scare that is out there is that traditional grocery is losing," she said. Frey said the purchase frequency for grocery perishables was 2.6% down compared with a year ago, while the drugstore purchase frequency for perishables was up 7.1%, dollar store purchase frequency for perishables was up 2%, and convenience store purchase frequency for perishables was up 1.4% from a year ago.
Perishables are performing better for supermarkets than center store departments, she said. For example, grocery story fresh produce sales for the year ending at the June 2014 was up 6% in dollars and up 3% in volume, according to Frey. That favorably compares to a 1% gain in dollar sales and a 0.1% increase in volume for all-store sales, she said.
"Fresh apples are in the winning part of the store," she said.
Fresh produce is a well developed department but it is still growing, she said. For the year ending at the end of June 2014, Nielsen Perishables statistics show overall fresh produce sales were up 6% in dollars, 3% up in volume and 3% up in average retail price. Fruit accounted for 47% of sales, vegetables 43%, and other produce 10%.
Some of the hottest growing items in the produce department include cooking greens (+18%), produce beverages (+13%), avocados(+17%), value added vegetables (13% higher) and value added fruits(+12%). dips (up 12%).
Apple ranked in third in produce sales, after berries and packaged salad.
For the year ending at the end of June, Nielsen statistics said the apple category was up 1% in dollar sales, 4% up in volume and down 3% in average price compared to the previous year. Gala apples accounted for 25% of all apple category sales, followed by 14% for fuji and 13% for red delicious.
Frey said honeycrisp, pink lady and McIntosh drove 43% of apple category growth for the year period ending in June , while Nielsen statistics showed that braeburn, golden delicious and red delicious shared 96% of varieties with apple dollar loss, she said.
In general, she said consumer focus is shifting from common traditional varieties to niche varieties, she said.
Nielsen statistics showed that 72% of households purchased apples during the year that ended in June 2014. Apples were included in an average of 5.8 shopping trips per year, with an average of $24 spent on apples each year.
Consumers important to apple sales included affluent consumers, Hispanic shoppers, health conscious consumers, premium and organic shoppers, and larger families and suburbanites.
Consumers with fewer apple purchases included singles, seniors, price sensitive shoppers, and consumers with less than $30,000 in household income, rural shoppers and convenience focused shoppers.
Varieties like fuji, braeburn, pink lady, piñata and honeycrisp appeal to the premium shopper, while low income shoppers buy empire, cortland, mcIntosh, red delicious and golden delicious, according to Nielsen stats.
Frey’s detailed look into the forest of apple and retail trends will take a while for the most astute marketer to contemplate. But there is light in it, and credible strategies that could be used to sell more apples.