The latest FreshFacts on Retail report shows produce sales slowing for a third straight quarter.
Nielsen and the United Fresh Produce Association, which put together the report, noted the change may indicate that the health halo around produce could be fading.
“For now the third consecutive quarter, the produce department experienced a decrease in average dollars sold,” the organizations said in the report. “Riding the wave of health and wellness may have finally run its course as shoppers now have more ‘clean’ options available across the store. Understanding generational, cultural and economic differences plays a vital role in store success. Exposure to new products and new uses has changed the way consumers engage with food, and for those retailers and produce companies who can adapt to meet these changing needs can hopefully turn things around for the produce department.”
Lettuce sales took a major hit as part of the fallout of the spring E. coli outbreak linked to romaine.
Other vegetables with notable volume declines include tomatoes (6.2%), potatoes (7.7%) and onions (5.1%), per the report. Those slides were attributed to higher prices.
Higher prices — for supply and other reasons — affected several big fruit categories as well, with volume declines in apples (6.3%), bananas (5.3%) and grapes (9.5%) among others.
Value-added vegetables saw a 6.4% increase in dollar sales in the second quarter, up to $360 million. Value-added fruit dollar sales grew 3.1% to $705 million.
Value-added vegetable volume grew 5.8%, and value-added fruit volume declined 1.3%.
Fresh-cut items with the best growth include broccoli — which tops the list by a wide margin — along with watermelons and cantaloupe.
“Consistent pricing and a diverse set of products developed to meet the growing consumer demand for convenience, health and snackability have fueled the strong growth of value-added vegetables,” United Fresh and Nielsen said in the report. “Value-added fruit has an opportunity to identify additional needs it can solve beyond snacking.”
Fresh-cut fruit accounts for 4.4% of overall produce dollar sales, and fresh-cut vegetables contribute 2.3%.
More fresh food data
Nielsen recently launched its Total Food View product, which captures fresh data from 92,000 U.S. food and drug stores and key mass, dollar, club and military retailers.
“With produce being sold in more channels beyond the traditional supermarket, having access to data from these additional channels will help produce companies plan and execute their promotional strategies,” United Fresh president and CEO Tom Stenzel said in a news release. “Future reports will dive more deeply into this data, with spotlights on the opportunities available in these emerging outlets.”
The full report can be found on the United Fresh website.