Retailers are shifting their apple categories to bags now that the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping Americans at home most of the time. Limited trips to shop for groceries, a desire for a grab-and-go pack, and an increase in buying groceries online are all factors causing retailers to mix up their apple strategy and lean into Stemilt’s hit bag items, five-pound Apple Lover pouch bags and three-pound Lil Snappers kid-sized pouch bags.
“These are incredible circumstances,” said Brianna Shales, senior marketing manager at Stemilt. “Like other produce suppliers, we feel fortunate to be able to feed people with nutritious fresh foods — like apples and pears — during this difficult time. We’re seeing a big shift to bagged apples and pears, and retailers carrying larger bag sizes to make up for volume that typically comes through the register as bulk.”
There is no evidence that food transmits COVID-19, Shales noted. The shift to bags is merely a reaction to new consumer shopping preferences. Bags are also an effective vehicle for retailers to quickly reset displays in produce departments and increase their ability to practice social distancing. Retailers typically sell 60-70 percent of apples as bulk, with the remaining 30-40 percent sold in bags. Stemilt anticipates retail scan data to show a shift in these percentages in the coming months.
“Retailers who traditionally sell apples via bulk displays are being proactive and jumping right into carrying five-pound bags,” said Shales. “They know big bags are the best vehicle for these unprecedented times and appreciate the scan ability bags offer and how quickly they can be displayed at the store.”
Stemilt is packing apples to order daily to fill the increased demand for bags. The main varieties to focus sales of five-pound Apple Lover packs are: Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious. Signature apples like Pinata and Pink Lady are also available in branded five-pound pouch bags.
“Our pouch bags are resealable and designed with a sturdy handle to make that grab-and-go purchase easy,” said Shales. “The five-pound size is ideal for shoppers who are now looking to purchase groceries for a week — or more — when they shop. It’s not the time for small bag sizes, as they won’t make up for the lost bulk volume, and that will cause the apple category to deflate.”
Bags have done wonders for the pear category in recent years, and Stemilt expects that trend to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company packs d’Anjou pears in a Rushing Rivers branded five-pound bag and in a three-pound Lil Snappers pouch bag.
“This trend toward bags was already happening for pears and boosts consumer purchase size compared to when they buy bulk pears,” said Shales. “Now, we have a great opportunity to attract additional shoppers to the pear category with these larger pouch bags.”
Bags have always sold well online and are surging right along with retail upticks in online grocery shopping, Shales noted. Bags move quickly through fulfillment centers because they are a UPC unit and are easy for personal shoppers to locate and handle. It’s easy for consumers to understand the volume they are buying with bags.
“Consumers may be purchasing groceries online for the first-time, and both of our bag items are branded to market intent to the shopper to make that purchase decision easy,” said Shales. “They fit that grab-and-go need whether people are working to get groceries quickly in-store or online.”