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Overcome apple category shortfalls with Stemilt Fast Facts

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Stemilt Growers and its industry-leading category insights program, Fruit Tracker, has launched a video podcast series to share quick facts and analysis around performance for top fruit categories. The first episode of Fast Facts: The Cast features Stemilt marketing director Roger Pepperl and Senior Marketing Manager Brianna Shales. It looks at U.S. apple category performance from October 2019. 

“Fast Facts 2.0 has arrived,” said Shales. “We’re rolling out this podcast-style analysis of category data to give retailers an easy way to digest facts that stood out to us in the latest set of Nielsen retail scan data. Whether they watch or listen, it’s a fast and fun way to understand how the total category is doing. It also offers advice for making small yet bold changes to elevate the category going-forward.”

The episode begins with a look at the overall apple category’s contribution to the total fresh produce department in October 2019 and compares it to the same timeframe the year prior. Apples were 6.9 percent of fresh produce sales nationally in October, which was down 0.2 percent year-over-year. The Midwest region beat the average considerably with 8.6 percent of fresh produce sales coming from apples. The remaining regions fell just above or below the national average.

“October is still in that transition time for apples, but it’s also a big selling month for apples, and the harsh reality is that we need to see bigger volumes of apples sold. Going big with promotions will help account for deflation in the apple category and help move the large crop that we have nationally this season,” said Shales.

In looking at the top five apple varieties, Gala led the way and experienced a 3.6 percent increase in volume sold year-over-year. Honeycrisp was the number two variety, yet sales were flat despite a larger crop of Honeycrisp this season. Fuji, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith rounded out the top five and all saw sales decline year-over-year.

“The Gala increase was a positive yet when we consider the larger crop we have this year, there is room for improvement. All top five varieties can benefit from increased multi-variety promotions that are centered around moving volume," she said. "Bigger displays, creative merchandising tactics, and in-and-outs on larger pouch bag packs are all strategies Stemilt has in place for retailers to tap into to push more volume through the register.”

Club apples and organics were also talking points within the Fast Facts: The Cast episode. Pepperl, a former apple buyer and merchandiser, advised those in the role today to “pick their favorites” when it came to new varieties and focus on messaging their unique attributes to consumers in order to increase trial and future purchases. Organic apple volumes were up nearly 7 percent in October 2019 when compared to 2018 and about 10 percent of apple category sales.

“The gas pedal isn’t there when it comes to organic apples, and presents a real creative promotion opportunity for retailers,” said Shales. The retailers that do organics best will often have 20 to 30 percent of their apple sales coming from organics. With the largest organic apple crop in history, this is the year to reward loyal organic shoppers and entice new ones via promotions.”

One recommendation Stemilt offers in the video podcast is for retailers to increase the bag size they carry on organic apples. Selling in packs that are three pounds or larger is an easy way to ensure organic product is identified at the register. It also increases the average purchase size and caters to the fact that organic shoppers are large buyers of produce.

“It’s time to sell more to these produce fanatics. We want to see the same multi-variety ad effort that is made for conventional apples made for bulk organic,” said Shales. “And beyond that, Stemilt has a value opportunity on five-pound pouch bags of Artisan Organics apples that retailers can take advantage of to give that organic category a volume boost.”