United Fresh Produce Association ( United Fresh has a new FreshFacts on Retail report available. )

The United Fresh Produce Association examines in its latest FreshFacts on Retail report how COVID-19 has affected first-quarter produce sales.

Because the report covers the first quarter of the year, it only captures a portion of the tremendous sales gains experienced at retail this spring due to the prolonged coronavirus crisis. However, along with its usual comparison for top 10 fruit and vegetable categories with the dollar and volume sales of the same quarter of the previous year, United’s report also includes a side-by-side look at dollar and volume sales for top 10 items in the first half of the quarter compared to the second half of the quarter.

For the first quarter overall, all the top 10 fruits saw dollar sales gains except grapes, and all saw volume gains except avocados. When comparing the first half of the quarter to the second, however, all the top 10 fruit items saw dollar sales increases, most notably lemons (27.9%), oranges (24.3%) and mandarins (21.4%).

All the top 10 vegetables saw dollar and volume jumps in the first quarter overall, but the big winners in dollar sales growth from the first half of the quarter to the second half of the quarter were potatoes (37.7%), onions (20.6%) and carrots (15.0%).

Planning for Q3

Look-ahead category spotlights in the report include cantaloupe, corn and watermelon, key items for the third quarter.

Cantaloupe dollar sales for Q3 2019 were $181 million, nearly unchanged since the same period in 2017. Value-added contributed $53 million, up 5.7% from Q3 2018.

Corn has also seen dollar gains in recent years, totaling $244 million in Q3 2019, up 8% from the same time frame in 2018.

“Volume sales are still challenged to grow,” United wrote in the report. “Yellow and bi-color are the leading subcategories, growing double digits and driving overall corn sales. Value-add sales declined from a small base after growing in the previous year.”

Watermelon brought in $698 million in Q3 2019, 8.6% higher than the same time in 2018. Volume sales were also up.

“Seedless and value-add subcategories that play to the convenience needs of consumers are driving sales and growth, while the seeded variant has seen dollar sales plummet,” United wrote, noted that seeded dollar sales in Q3 2019 were $43 million, down 11% from the previous year.

The report also includes data on value-added produce, organic produce and snacking.