Apples see summertime sales, volume upswing


Stemilt is back with another edition of its Fast Facts: The Cast video series, which provides retailers with an analysis of the latest set of Nielsen retail scan data. This episode looks at the past 12 weeks of retail data ending Aug. 22 and reveals strong summertime apple category performance across the United States. Stemilt also offers insights into how retailers can position apples for strong movement as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter consumer shopping habits.

“It’s encouraging to see apple dollars up 3 percent and volume up 4.3 percent year-over-year during the past three months,” said Brianna Shales, senior marketing manager at Stemilt. “The summer months are generally a slower time for apple promotions, but good availability and quality, larger pack sizes, and consumer interest in apples has helped this category stay strong throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Retailers are certainly making apples convenient for shoppers to grab-and-go during these unusual times.”

The top five apples by volume during this 12-week period were Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji, Granny Smith and Red Delicious. Honeycrisp made up 27 percent of the apple category dollars over the summer and retailers moved more of this popular apple. The top five all showed year-over-year increases, except for Red Delicious, which has evolved into a value offering in the U.S. marketplace.

“Fuji and Gala were both up in volume and dollars, but could have benefitted from more promotion this summer,” said Shales. “They are the workhorses of the apple category all year. As we head into the fall and peak apple promotion time, we encourage retailers to promote consumer favorites like Honeycrisp, but do so while promoting core varieties like Fuji, Gala, and Granny Smith. This will drive tonnage up for the apple category.”

Packaged apples keep playing a bigger role in the apple category during the COVID-19 pandemic and made up 34 percent of the category dollars and 42 percent of category volume in the latest 12 weeks. Compared to last year, bags contributed 3 percent more dollars and 5 percent more volume to the apple category.

“Selling more apples in bags is a trend we expect to see continue this fall,” said Shales. “Packaged apples were growing pre-pandemic and then grew rapidly since March. However, bulk still makes up the majority of apple sales, making bulk an opportunity to adapt the strategy on this fall.”

Stemilt has made an old bulk apple selling concept new again with its just-released Farm + Famous paper tote bag. The bag holds about four pounds of PLU stickered apples that cashiers will ring up at the register just like they would bulk fruit. The bags come pre-packaged to eliminate additional handling by produce teams or consumers.

“The Farm + Famous tote bag is a great solution for bulk apple sales as the COVID-19 pandemic likely continues this fall and winter,” said Shales. “Retailers can sell apples at a per pound price but limit the time they spend setting up displays and handling fruit. Consumers will love the grab-and-go bag and the fact that it is 100 percent recyclable.”

As the fall season arrives, Stemilt advises retailers to find the sweet spot on Honeycrisp apple promotions that will lead to incremental sales, carry the right club varieties for their shoppers during their prime seasons, and keep building big apple displays to attract in-store purchases.

“Apples are a big part of produce department sales during the next several months, and it will be important to build creative displays to help shoppers quickly pick-up this fruit,” said Shales. “Stemilt has signature apple varieties, hit packaged brands like Lil Snappers kid-size fruit, and an entire modern mix of Artisan Organics apples to help retailers keep building the momentum and success with apples.”

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