Coronavirus (COVID-19) Grocery / Retail Resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Grocery / Retail Resources

Fresh Produce and Floral Industry Members Connect on Latest COVID-19 Disruptions: Grocery/Retail (May 21)

Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on May 20 around the most pressing COVID-19 pandemic disruptions directly impacting them and their businesses.

Here are the top themes, insights and challenges about grocery/retail.

Weekly Produce Sales at Retail Data
Fresh produce gains remained highly elevated the second week of May. Fresh produce growth for the week of May 10 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 17.1% — virtually unchanged from the prior week. Fresh vegetables continued to easily outperform fruit, but both achieved double-digit increases. Download the full report for more information. 

Fresh produce purchasing remains strong overall as more than eight out of 10 consumers say they are purchasing more or the same amount of both fresh fruit and vegetables as before the COVID-19 outbreak. This information directly translates to the sales data and tells us that consumers are realizing that produce is safe to buy and it will last until their next shopping trip.

The Amazon search rank index for home cooking categories validates the fact that more and more consumers are cooking at home. At the end of March, there was a surge in purchases for basic kitchen supplies (bowls, knife sets, cutting boards), which shows consumers were not cooking as much before and they are now learning how to cook and developing completely new routines that retailers need to be a part of.

Onions – Sweet and Fresh Crop
Onions are an essential part of cooking and the demand for sweet onions has skyrocketed to satisfy consumer demand for cooking at home. Bagged onions have gone up 300% during the pandemic and suppliers are working overtime to meet that demand.

While the demand for medium-sized onions for retail is high, there is a decline in the demand for large onions which are used primarily in foodservice. There may be value opportunities for retailers to consider the distribution of the larger size onions that normally would fill the foodservice channel in light of the Vidalia onion crop producing its lowest yield in the last 5 years.

Consumers pay attention to where their food comes from, so retailers and suppliers need to capitalize on everything great about the onion and promote with messaging around the story of how it got to the consumers’ table, health immunity-boosting benefits and how tasty onions are.

Fresh Herbs – The Beginning of a Full Cart
In the midst of panic buying, fresh herb purchases remained relatively flat. As a low velocity item, retailers decided at the beginning of the pandemic they didn’t necessary need certain herbs and discontinued full herb lines or eliminated potted herb lines, similar to floral. Post-panic buying, retailers have reincorporated the fresh herbs and there’s been a 38% increase in sales which speaks to the fact that if the fresh herbs are on the shelf, they are going to sell.

Thyme, rosemary and savory-type cooking herbs have increased in sales, which correlates to the increase of consumers cooking at home - trying new recipes and using herbs as a quintessential tool to give them the flavor they need.

Specialty Produce – What’s Next
At the start of the pandemic, retailers pulled out of specialty produce due to labor shortages and trying to gauge where consumers were going to spend their money. Some products like ginger, turmeric, citrus and purple sweet potatoes completely increased in sales due to their shelf life and health benefits.

Consumers are starting to think about what they are doing this summer because they know it’s going to look very different. They aren’t going to be traveling or spending extended weekends away, so they’ll need to create micro-escapes at home (picnics, small gatherings, etc.) and they will need many essentials from the grocery store in order to delight family and friends during these times.

Based on a recent study of 1,000 consumers:

  • 55% are planning to vacation less
  • 60% agree that micro-escapes are helping them get through their day
  • 45% have a treasure hunt mentality – looking in every department to see what’s new
  • 44% think tropical fruit will help make it feel like summer
  • 42% are looking for unique items throughout the store to elevate picnic and grilling

Now is the time for growers and retailers to embrace specialty produce since there will be increased foot traffic in the stores, plus specialty produce is really fun, creates excitement and has great health benefits.

Don’t forget to check out these new resources:

This is part of a series of weekly virtual events designed to provide up-to-date information and opportunities to connect and discuss throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The next virtual roundtable focused on the grocery/retail sector of our industry will be held next Wednesday, May 27.


Members Helping Members - Experts’ Advice: Getting Produce and Floral into the Online Cart (May 19)

During the pandemic, consumers have increasingly turned to online shopping, and experts predict that trend will outlast the crisis period of the pandemic at some level. Over the last month, 40 million new households are ordering online and this is a tremendous opportunity for retailers to create a narrative and an engaging experience to drive produce and floral purchases online. A bad experience on the first order, a shopper may forgive and try again, but repeated bad experiences and the shopper will discontinue altogether.

We gathered comments from marketers on weekly PMA Retail Roundtables and consulted some of our member marketing agency experts for their thoughts on enhancing online produce and floral retail marketing. View their tips on what retailers can do now to enhance the produce and floral shopping experience and ensure those items make it into the online cart.

Members Helping Members - Commodity and Regional Marketing: Promoting Produce from Crisis to Recovery (May 19)

We asked our promotion experts – commodity boards, regional grower associations, and state departments of agriculture – how they adapted their promotion work during the COVID-19 crisis and how they see their work changing as we move into recovery. Here’s what they had to say.


Fresh Produce Sales Remained Highly Elevated at +17% Vs. Year Ago (May 18)

In the ninth week of coronavirus-related shopping, patterns continued to evolve. Between the typical Mother’s Day sales boost and shoppers flocking to the store once more to stock up on meat amid ongoing coverage of shortages, grocery sales had another good week, and produce along with it. Trip, spending and channel choices continued to be in flux and fresh e-commerce is here to stay. All these developments had significant impact on fresh produce sales.

Fresh produce gains remained highly elevated the second week of May. Fresh produce growth for the week of May 10 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 17.1% — virtually unchanged from the prior week. Fresh vegetables continued to easily outperform fruit, but both achieved double-digit increases. Meanwhile, consumer interest in all three temperature states for fruits and vegetables continued, with dollars split between fresh, frozen and shelf-stable. Download the full report


Members Helping Members: Sustainability Counsel During Uncertain Times (May 18)

We reached out to volunteer members of the PMA Sustainability Committee for advice as our industry grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. As business leaders attempt to navigate the challenges of the crisis, it can be difficult to know how to keep sustainability values aligned with the often conflicting demands. Here, our contributors share advice on how to facilitate a creative approach to sustainability in times of uncertainty.


 

Fresh Produce and Floral Industry Members Connect on Latest COVID-19 Disruptions: Grocery/Retail (May 14)

Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on May 13 around the most pressing COVID-19 pandemic disruptions directly impacting them and their businesses.

Here are the top themes, insights and challenges about grocery/retail.

Weekly Produce Sales at Retail Data

Following a stellar last week of April, fresh produce gains remained highly elevated the first week of May. Fresh produce growth for the week of May 3 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 17.2%. Fresh vegetables continued to easily outperform fruit, but both achieved double-digit increases. Meanwhile, consumer interest in all three fruit and vegetable offerings continued, with dollars split between fresh, frozen (+43.1%) and shelf-stable (+32.9%). Frozen and shelf-stable supply chains have not fully recovered due to demand exceeding supply.

Frozen products are seeing some strength right now as consumers have concerns relative to fresh and the desire to have food in the house for 2 to 3 weeks.

Related to online engagement, 92% of consumers plan to continue shopping online after the pandemic. This is an opportunity for retailers to increase their marketing efforts to create impulse behaviors online by linking to recipes and growing information to engage consumers. Download the full report for more information.

Memorial Day – Kickoff to Summer in a COVID-19 World

Memorial Day weekend is the kickoff to summer but also the kickoff to watermelon season. Watermelon bins in grocery stores are iconic and scream summer, but retailers will need to be mindful in how they are displayed and consider carrying multiple formats for different customers (fresh cut, whole, etc.), as well as where they are displayed within the store (inside, outside, POS).

Selection information is key – consumer research shows that knowing how to select the proper produce item and knowing the nutritional information is what consumers want to see and will get them engaged and want to buy. Retailers should focus on these aspects and highlight nutrition facts when merchandising produce such as watermelon (good source of vitamin A and C and good source of hydration), since it is top of mind for consumers and is essential to increase demand and sales.

These messages and promotions should appear in the store, but also throughout social and digital platforms so the story is reaching all consumers where they are interacting with the brand.

How will COVID-19 change customer engagement strategies?

With 30 million people unemployed, the way consumers are looking to purchase produce and other products will certainly change. In Asia, there has been a real spike in premium products and produce items (health and immunity supporting), and we have already seen this trend in the U.S. Presenting fresh produce as healthy comfort food will drive more demand especially in the fruit category.

This is the first time during the pandemic that we have a change of seasonal fruit, and retailers have a great opportunity to create excitement and impulse sales and be bold in merchandising leading up to the holiday weekend and summer months. Retailers should consider offering a value-oriented position through bundled or bagged produce, supplying health and immunity supporting recipes and merchandising outside if possible with portable refrigerated displays.

Based on Mother’s Day weekend performance, Memorial Day produce sales may exceed what is currently being forecasted. Also, with less travel happening, we can expect that consumers will be bringing food from retail and picnicking at their homes, so retailers should expect and prepare for extra volume during the coming weeks.

This is part of a series of weekly virtual events designed to provide up-to-date information and opportunities to connect and discuss throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The next virtual roundtable focused on the grocery/retail sector of our industry will be held next Wednesday, May 20.


Produce Matters – To Our Company, To Our Customers (May 12)

Fresh produce and floral are crucial departments for retailers. This resource, which you can customize with your logo, helps everyone in the company understand how these departments contribute to the retailer’s success. Be sure everyone in your company grasps that their work is essential to shopper satisfaction and company growth.


Retail Sales Report: Fresh Produce Sales Gains Remained in Double-Digits the First Week of May (May 11)

Two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery patterns continue to evolve. Initially, trips were plentiful as consumers sought to stock up their pantries, fridges and freezers and visited multiple stores to find all the items they were looking for. In recent weeks, trips have come down while the average basket size is growing. Meanwhile, online grocery shopping continues to gain in popularity. All these developments have significant impact on fresh produce sales. Download the full report.


Cathy Burns and Kevin Coupe on “The Joy of Fresh” in Retail (May 8)

Cathy Burns chats with MorningNewsBeat Content Guy Kevin Coupe about how our industry has adapted to circumstances dictated by the pandemic, and how we are prioritizing innovation opportunities in the future. One thing they agree on: There will be nothing normal about the "new normal." Discussion topics include:

  • The focus on innovation and coming together to create solutions
  • Ecommerce; opportunities for retailers to meet their consumers where they are
  • Supply chain challenges, global sustainability and environmental concerns
  • Disruptions that effect change

This was originally posted on MorningNewsBeat on April 27, 2020.


Fresh Produce and Floral Industry Members Connect on Latest COVID-19 Disruptions: Grocery/Retail (May 7)

Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on May 6 around the most pressing COVID-19 pandemic disruptions directly impacting them and their businesses.

Here are the top themes, insights and challenges about grocery/retail.

Weekly Produce Sales at Retail Data

Amid strong perimeter growth, produce sales jumped back up during the week of April 26. This is great momentum as we get ready for the summer fruits and vegetables to hit the market. Download the full report.

It’s Cherry Season – Effect on Seasonal Sales

It’s said in the cherry industry that every season will be something different and that’s certainly the case for this year. With so many consumers limiting their shopping trips and ordering more online, retailers will need to engage their consumers through digital marketing efforts to get the message out that cherries are in season and are available. Offering digital coupons, promoting cherries front and center on their website, leveraging social influencers and giving small sample bags to online shoppers are just a few ideas for retailers to keep cherries top of mind for the consumer.

Quality will drive consumption of cherries. Since cherries are an impulse buy and many consumers don’t have expendable income right now, retailers need to be promoting the quality (bigger, better, sweeter) and health benefits (high in Vitamin C, anti-inflammatory, melatonin) of this seasonal fruit in order to maximize the benefits consumers will receive when purchasing.

Enclosed packaging is important. Top seal and clamshells are ideal during this time and will go a longer way to boost confidence in quality for the consumer. Random weight rules need to be relaxed this year to allow retailers to close bags at POS to guard against safety concerns from consumers.

The Northwest cherry crop is estimated at 20.5 million cases, about 12% down from last year; however, supplies will balance throughout the entire season enabling good merchandising through the end of July. At this point growers expect a smooth transition from the California crop to the Northwest crop with nice availability for Father's Day promotions.

California Grapes – Luxury or Essential to Consumers

With the grape season starting this month, retailers should be focused on targeting consumers and trade to strengthen demand and promotion. Again, the focus will be primarily on digital platforms and reaching consumers with messaging on snacking, health benefits and California preferences.

Along with online promotions, retailers should take the following into consideration:

  • display grapes in primary locations within store;
  • offer additional varieties;
  • pricing - consumers will pay fair price that allows fair return to the growers.

South of the Border – Mexico Update

Mexico production is a key part of supply chain strength, along with providing consumers with options. Operations within Mexico and border crossings are normal, with produce coming across bridges without impact.

Seasonal produce from Mexico, especially vegetables, are on course for this season, while other commodities are wrapping up as expected. Papaya availability will be significantly reduced in 2020 and 2021 due to less acreage in production.

Mushrooms – The Other Protein / Meat Substitute

With limits on meat in place, now is the perfect time to toe in mushrooms.

There are two things driving the increase in consumption of mushrooms:

  1. Trend of blending ground mushrooms with ground meat. Mushrooms are perfect for cross-merchandising with meat. You can extend meat-oriented meals such as burgers by 30%, which is critical with supply chain disruption. Blending appeals to meat eaters as much as it appeals to those who are on plant-forward diets.
  2. Trend of mushrooms overall and their benefits. Consumers are learning that mushrooms are a very versatile product that adds a lot of flavor to their meals and contributes to better nutrition and health. 

To keep up with the trends, retailers should incorporate fresh mushrooms into their recipes and cooking tips to show consumers how they can be used. Demand can also be driven by adding multiple sizes to mushroom items, cross merchandising with the meat department and multiple price points.

Don’t forget to check out these new resources:

This is part of a series of weekly virtual events designed to provide up-to-date information and opportunities to connect and discuss throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The next virtual roundtable focused on the grocery/retail sector of our industry will be held next Wednesday, May 13.


Produce Picking: Helping Third-Party Shoppers Satisfy Consumers (May 6)

Consumers shopping online need the confidence that their order-pickers from third party shopping services will get them what they want. And those services want to build efficiency and customer satisfaction. PMA has collaborated with The Produce Moms to develop this substitution guide for third-party shoppers, who may not be familiar with the plethora of produce items in the department. If a particular produce item is unavailable, the shopper can use the guide to suggest a substitution for the consumer and keep those sales in the produce department. Download the substitution guide for third-party shoppers.


U.S. Consumer Sentiment During the Coronavirus Crisis: Wave 3 (May 6)

PMA's consumer sentiment research aims to provide insight into how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting consumer shopping trends for produce. This is directional information that can help guide PMA and its members with their messaging to consumers during this uncertainty.

Wave 3 data, collected April 27-29, is available for the U.S.


Amid Strong Perimeter Growth, Produce Sales Jumped Back Up (May 4)

During the last full week of April, grocery shopping patterns remained vastly different. Since early March, food spending has been highly elevated, trips have been shifting away from the weekend to weekdays, baskets have become bigger as shoppers seek to minimize trips and prepare more meals at home, and online engagement continues to grow.

Following a tough week that went up against the Easter 2019 sales bump, fresh produce gains jumped right back into the double-digits the final week of April. Fresh produce growth for the week of April 26 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 22.9%. Fresh vegetables continued to easily outperform fruit, but the latter was back in the high teens and not all that different from gains seen in shelf-stable fruit that was up 28.2%. Meanwhile, consumer interest in all three fruit and vegetable offerings continued, with dollars split between fresh, frozen and shelf-stable. Frozen produce once more had the strongest gains, up 57.6%.

Download the full report


Fresh Produce and Floral Industry Members Connect on Latest COVID-19 Disruptions: Grocery/Retail (April 30)

Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on April 29 around the most pressing COVID-19 pandemic disruptions directly impacting them and their businesses.

Here are the top themes, insights and challenges about grocery/retail.

Weekly Produce Sales at Retail Data

Elevated everyday demand pushes the week of April 19 above prior year Easter levels. Now, going into the summer, it is important to keep the momentum for vegetables going and build strong demand for fruit, despite the vastly different trip and spending patterns. Download the full report.

Consumer Shopping Pattern Shifts

Prior to the pandemic, Sunday was the busiest day for retailers with 36% of total spending being done during the weekend. Weekend spending has decreased to 26.5% and we are now seeing that Thursday and Friday, and even sometimes Tuesday, are the busiest days. Busiest time of day has also shifted from 4-7 p.m. to now 1-4 p.m.

Many factors correlate to this shift, including stores opening early on certain days for elderly or first responders, consumers now working from home so they are able to run to the store throughout the day and people being mindful and reducing their trips to the store.

Online Sales: Generating Demand through Online Platforms

We’ve jumped years ahead in engagement with online shopping. Over the last month, 40 million new households are ordering online and this is a tremendous opportunity for retailers to tell a story and create a narrative and engaging experience to drive produce purchases online (where the product is from, if it’s ripe, “Produce Manager pick of the week”, etc.).

Promotions are as important online as they are offline. When online, consumers are searching for specific items and we need to make sure produce makes it into their cart. Retailers must leverage the platform functionalities to ensure produce stays top of mind by adding large, high resolution images of produce, showing a time-lapse image or video that gives the story for longer lasting produce, or sharing an infographic to show sustainability.

Online is going to be here to stay, so we need to overcome the barrier of trust and confidence in delivery quality and ensure the 3rd party shoppers are educated to select the proper produce for each order.

Supplemental Supply Supporting Retail Distribution Strategy

Learnings have been captured from all parts of the supply chain, which will lead to new strategies going forward. Pre-planning, crisis planning and scenario- based planning are all essential. Although this is a crisis we couldn’t plan for, businesses have been able to use existing crisis plans as a starting point to help guide them through these times.

It is important to have strong strategic partners and local connections, and be agile and flexible in business operations in order to overcome challenges during crisis mode; an even stronger relationship with your partners will come out of it in the long run.

Trying to understand consumer behavior and plan for demand has been a challenge, but having regular conversations with supply chain partners around the world can help gauge behavior and ability to forecast.

What’s Next? Innovation in Services at Retail Post COVID-19

The global trend history has shown that generations repeat themselves every 100 years, driven by world events. COVID-19 is the shift that will reset the demographics for the next 100 years to come.

Major historic events show short term changes in behavior, but ultimately, consumers need and want to feel normal. Things we see now are driven by health and consumers are making decisions about that. That health risk, as businesses start opening back up, will go away. As this changes, fears will shift into something else – like financial stability, food insecurity, etc.

It’s said that it takes 30 days to create a habit – by virtue of staying home and cooking meals, to plan and decide what they are going to buy, consumers are creating new habits, so retailers can adapt to these new habits by helping with meal planning, providing new food ideas and experiences and tapping into consumers’ needs to feel what they are supporting has a bigger purpose.

Retailers are ever-adjusting to the needs of their customers and now retailers are positioning their business and preparing for what comes next.

This is part of a series of weekly virtual events designed to provide up-to-date information and opportunities to connect and discuss throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The next virtual roundtable focused on the grocery/retail sector of our industry will be held next Wednesday, May 6.


Consumer Sentiment During the Coronavirus Crisis in the U.S., U.K., China and Brazil (April 29)

Our consumer sentiment research aims to provide insight into how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting consumer shopping trends for produce. This is directional information that can help guide PMA and its members with their messaging to consumers during this uncertainty. Lauren M. Scott, Chief Marketing Officer, PMA, provides context for what this means in the U.S., Brazil, China and the U.K:

Wave 1 data was collected March 31 - April 4.
Wave 2 data was collected April 13-16.

Download the reports.


No Limits on Produce and Floral Items (April 29)

Consumers are tired of seeing limits on their grocery shopping. Be sure they know there are no limits to produce and floral purchases. Showcase the abundance of these departments and The Joy of Fresh™ with these “No Limits” signs. Add your logo to them, print and display!


Elevated Everyday Demand Pushes the Week of April 19 Above Prior Year Easter Levels (April 27)

Since the onset of coronavirus in the United States, grocery shopping patterns have been vastly different. Spending has been highly elevated ever since March 8 and much has changed in product and brand choices, trip trends relative to the day of the week and day part, and online engagement. Importantly, the week ending April 19 had to go up against Easter 2019 sales, that fell on April 21 last year. 210 Analytics, IRI and PMA partnered to understand the effect for produce in dollars and volume throughout the pandemic.

Fresh produce growth for the week of April 19 versus the comparable week in 2019 did increase, but much less so then seen in prior weeks, at +3.3%. Vegetables continued to easily outperform fruit and the three-way split of the produce dollar between fresh, frozen and shelf-stable continued. While fresh produce was down to the lower single-digits in terms of year-over-year growth, frozen and canned produce were still up by double digits. Download the full report.


Kroger Offers ‘Blueprint’ for Reopening Businesses (April 27)

Kroger’s Blueprint for Businesses is intended to be a resource for businesses of all sizes and sectors of the economy, providing recommendations, insights, best practices and downloadable creative assets to help businesses navigate the next phase of this unprecedented pandemic.


USDA Announces Labeling Flexibilities to Facilitate Distribution of Food to Retail Locations (April 27)

USDA is exercising enforcement discretion for a temporary period to provide labeling flexibilities to the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements and allow the re-distribution of food products intended for foodservice to be sold in retail establishments.

These actions are in line with similar labeling flexibilities allowed by the Food and Drug Administration and USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.

See more information about USDA labeling flexibilities


Members Helping Members: Best Practices for Approaching New Retail Customers (April 24)

The COVID-19 crisis has turned our world upside down, especially for suppliers to the foodservice industry. As a result, we know many distributors, wholesalers and grower-shippers are looking for new channels for their products, especially the retail channel.

We reached out to our PMA retailer members around the world for tips on how to approach new customers, especially during this challenging time. Thank you to our retailers, large and small, multinational and local, for their insights and for being there for their fellow PMA members.


Interview with the Experts: David Poirier, The Poirier Group (April 24)

Ed Treacy, PMA VP, Supply Chain and Sustainability sat down with David Poirier of The Poirier Group to discuss navigating and enhancing your operations through the COVID-19 situation. David goes over ways to seize opportunities.


Fresh Produce and Floral Industry Members Connect on Latest COVID-19 Disruptions: Grocery/Retail (April 23)

Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on April 22, 2020 around the most pressing COVID-19 pandemic disruptions directly impacting them and their businesses. Here are the top themes, insights and challenges about grocery/retail.

Weekly Produce Sales at Retail Data

The week of April 12 marked the years earlier Easter as well as the sixth week of the coronavirus-related grocery shopping patterns. During this time fresh vegetable sales accelerated, while fruit sales are back to single digits. Download the full report.

Organic Trends During COVID-19

In March alone, organic produce sales were up 10% higher than conventional produce.

There is a strong continued pull on organic produce due to the following 3 factors:

  • Incredible supply chain
  • Customers are really focused on health overall and cooking at home (garlic, berries, citrus, mushrooms, peppers, etc. are trending much higher now than pre-COVID.)
  • Organic brands are well known and trusted

It was also mentioned that the increase in some organic categories (garlic and mushrooms) is tied to heavy demand on fresh meat.

Also, during the organic discussion it was mentioned that some retailers are reporting that Tuesday is now their busiest day of the week.

Technology investments in retail/suppliers spurred by COVID-19

Retailers have a huge new opportunity in regards to the acceleration of people who are now grocery shopping online. This creates a whole new platform and a new way of doing old things. Eye appeal is buy appeal, and online you don’t necessarily have that since customers are searching for specific items.

Retailers need to have a strong digital strategy including high-quality images of produce items, better SEO to help propel produce to the top of the site and ensuring that what’s being offered online to purchase is able to be fulfilled. Offering a sample is another way to enhance the customer experience. Through a recent survey, 49% of online shoppers said they would be interested in samples.

Since so many consumers are relying on third-party shoppers to complete their orders, there is still a need to better educate those shoppers on how to select produce and offer viable substitutions when the exact product isn’t available, rather than just selecting “out of stock”.

Traceability is important and there tends to be some short-comings when it comes to this. To be able to leverage traceability properly, the PLU and UPC codes need to be applied to the product and on invoices correctly.

Self-service - salad / food bars, how will these offerings be impacted?

There is a big opportunity now to look at the self-service areas (hot bar, soups, salad bar, carving stations, etc.) and think about what customers are going to do when they come back. The handling of the spoons and tongs is going to be the biggest issue that will need to be addressed.

At this time, self-service bars have been completely closed down and gone to pre-packaging and bringing them back to normal will most likely be a phased approach, consisting of the following:

  1. Extreme: all pre-pack
  2. Hybrid: pre-pack plus bulk
  3. Go back to normal

It is hard to predict and at the end of the day it will really be dictated by the customer and how they accept the self-service moving forward.

From a manufacturing standpoint, there are challenges regarding display fixtures. Departments (such as produce and deli) are going to have to reinvent themselves and convert service cases to the current needs. Existing cases that were made for bulk salads need to be adjusted to maintain integrity of the products but display it properly for the customer.

Merchandising/Seasonal Planning

Merchandising in the last six weeks has been low; really nil. Fruit is down because merchandising isn’t a priority. Retailers are focused on getting it off the truck and onto the shelves quickly.

Currently, customers want to get in and out of the store as fast as possible, so looking to the new season, retailers need to shift their merchandising strategies to drive more impulse sales. Packaged produce purchasing is now driven by consumers wanting a club pack type item to limit store trips and not necessarily driven by potential contamination.

Expendable income will be decreased substantially so retailers need to take that into consideration. For example, cherries may not be attainable given the price, but as cherries come down in price, they will be attainable for a lot of people.

As social distancing rules are relaxed and we kick off the summer season, merchandising and advertising will come back and be a focus. There is optimism that things will get better as we move through May.

This is part of a series of weekly virtual events designed to provide up-to-date information and opportunities to connect and discuss throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The next virtual roundtable focused on the grocery/retail sector of our industry will be held next Wednesday, April 29.

Interview with the Experts: Jeff Brandenburg, JSB Group (April 22)

Dr. Trevor Suslow sits down with Jeff Brandenburg of the JSB Group to focus practical insights and tips for those considering entering or enhancing operations in e-commerce. They also look at packaging for e-commerce and distribution.


Fresh Vegetable Sales Accelerated, Fruit Sales Growth Back to Single Digits (April 21)

The week of April 12 marked the year’s earlier Easter as well as the sixth week of the coronavirus-related grocery shopping patterns. Since the onset of the coronavirus in the United States, grocery retailing conditions have been unlike any ever experienced in recent history.

Unprecedented pantry, fridge and freezer loading by consumers across the United States emptied stores for days and weeks on end, resulting in incredible sales surges and widespread out-of-stocks conditions. During the week of April 12, many stores further sharpened safety measures, such as metered entry, asking shoppers to limit visits to one person per cart and encouraging consumers to wear masks and to shop just once a week, while avoiding stocking up on any one item.

Produce sales at retail remained highly elevated during the week ending April 12, while the demand from foodservice continued to be far below normal levels. Download the full report.


Consumer Sentiment During the Coronavirus Crisis (April 16)

PMA's consumer sentiment research aims to provide insight into how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting consumer shopping trends for produce. This is directional information that can help guide PMA members with messaging to consumers during this uncertainty. Our research covers the U.S., Brazil, China and the U.K. 


Fresh Produce and Floral Industry Members Connect on Latest COVID-19 Disruptions: Grocery/Retail (April 16)

Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on April 15 around the most pressing COVID-19 pandemic disruptions directly impacting them and their businesses.

Here are the top themes, insights and challenges about grocery/retail.

Weekly produce sales at retail data
Sales for the first week in April were likely influenced by the earlier Easter and a higher everyday demand that is driving a new baseline that sits well above the old normal. Download the full report.

Spring crops and the impact on local grown during COVID-19
While price is still one of the first factors consumers consider when purchasing produce, we are seeing that more and more people are wanting to know where their produce is coming from and that it is safe to consume, now more than ever. Consumers are guarded about imports and non-packaged fruits and vegetables so we need to make sure the local produce is available in store. It’s more important than ever for consumers to have access to local food and stimulate local economies.

Farmers have adapted to this new normal and are taking advantage of the direct-to-consumer model and providing farm pick-up and delivery options.

Growers are seeing a very solid season ahead and they are optimistic that their retail partners will continue to have local/seasonal items as part of their ordering and essential items list. The loyalty of the buyers will be needed to localize the deals and purchasing as the products come on in season.

With potential economic downturn – will consumers trade down
A 2008 consumer report showed that while grocery shopping, 65% said they cut back spending on none essential items, 55% said they bought fewer prepared meals, 55% said they bought fewer organics and 50% would try lower price brands. In some ways, history may repeat itself.

The most important thing retailers can do is to really understand their customer’s needs, wants and fears during this time, so they can be addressed and properly communicated to. It is safe to assume that upscale stores will return to somewhat normal shopping patterns, while urban stores may see consumers scaling back.

Either way, there will still be a demand for fresh produce, so as retailers, we need to communicate the health benefits and safety of the produce.

Consumer trends toward comfort foods/snacks
This is a great opportunity to ensure consumers are complementing their comfort foods with produce. Whether it’s through desserts (chocolate covered strawberries, apple pie, watermelon pizza and mixed berry cobbler) or using fresh produce ingredients in their cocktails. Cheers to fresh produce!

Will new packaged produce strategies remain after COVID-19?
Diversifying the options for packaging, such as display-ready packaging, will help combat the labor challenges occurring throughout the supply chain. Some of these shopping patterns we are seeing, in terms of preferred packaging, may have changed for the lifetime of the consumer – it is all about convenience and safety.

Packaging may have an even higher preference as it relates to e-commerce shoppers. For example, retailers need to address the concerns regarding fixed weight vs. random weight and consider offering produce in different packaging with a standard price (example: offering cherries in a clamshell vs. bagged).

This is part of a series of weekly virtual events designed to provide up-to-date information and opportunities to connect and discuss throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The next virtual roundtable focused on the grocery/retail sector of our industry will be held next Wednesday, April 22. 


U.S. COOL rules relaxed to facilitate using foodservice produce at retail (April 15)

The United States usually requires produce (and other foods) at retail to bear information about the product’s country of origin. Produce destined for foodservice use does not have to bear that information.

USDA has announced “enforcement discretion” on its Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program. On April 13, USDA wrote: “To facilitate the distribution of food to retail establishments from suppliers that have inventory on hand that is labeled for use in restaurants, effective April 20, 2020, and for a period of 60 days, AMS will not take enforcement action against the retail sale of commodities that lack an appropriate country of origin or method of production label, provided that the food does not make any country of origin or method of production claims. Once the 60-day period has ended, COOL designations will once again be required at covered retail establishments.”

USDA noted that this flexibility will allow food to be diverted from restaurants to retail, helping restaurants and their suppliers access additional markets, and making more product available to consumers shopping at retail. For more, see USDA’s announcement.


FDA Issues Best Practices on Safe Food Handling and Employee Health During COVID-19 Pandemic (April 15)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued information and best practices for retail food stores, restaurants, and pick-up and delivery services during the pandemic to protect workers and customers. Many of these are smart food safety practices that employers can consider at any time. This information is being issued in two convenient formats:


Weekly Produce Sales at Retail Data

Produce Sales Remain Highly Elevated (April 14)

As the COVID-19 outbreak accelerated across states during the first week of April, grocery shopping continued to be affected. Produce sales at retail remained highly elevated during the week ending April 5, while the foodservice side continued to see deep declines. 210 Analytics, IRI and PMA partnered up to understand the effect for produce in dollars and volume throughout the pandemic.

The fundamentally different consumer engagement with produce amid COVID19 continued to show a three-way split of the produce dollar between fresh, frozen and shelf-stable during the week of April 5.

  • Fresh produce increased 14.2% over the comparable week in 2019
  • Frozen, +47.4%
  • Shelf-stable, +48.1%

Download the full report.

Fundamentally Different Produce Engagement Continues (April 6)

March 29 marks the end of what has been, for most people, the third week of tightening social distancing measures caused by the rapid spread of the coronavirus. As of early April, 47 states have issued some type of executive order governing social and business activities, with tremendous impact on grocery and produce sales.

While the foodservice side has been devastated, sales at retail started surging come the second week of March. 210 Analytics, IRI and PMA partnered to understand the effect for produce in dollars and volume throughout the pandemic.

During the week of March 29, produce sales continued to show highly elevated levels regardless of where they were sold in the store, despite many chains running limited opening hours:

  • Fresh produce increased 8.1% over the comparable week in 2019
  • Frozen, +41.6%
  • Shelf-stable, +51.0%

Source: IRI, Total US, MULO, week ending March 29, 2020. Download the full report.

Continued Surge in Produce Sales in Fresh, Frozen and Canned (March 31)

Produce sales rose along with consumer anxiety levels. IRI found that 58% of consumers were extremely concerned about COVID-19 the week of March 22, up from 38% the prior week.

This resulted in produce continuing to move at unprecedented volumes regardless of where they are sold in the store:

  • Fresh produce increased 29.7%
  • Frozen increased 111.4%
  • Shelf-stable increased 158.1%

Source: IRI, Total US, MULO, week ending March 22, 2020. Download the full report.

Fresh Produce Sales Up 33.9% in Recent Weeks (March 24)

As coronavirus social distancing measures are tightening and the number of confirmed cases are growing, retail sales are surging. Download the full report.


Fresh Produce and Floral Industry Members Connect on Latest COVID-19 Disruptions: Grocery/Retail (April 9)

Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on April 8, 2020 around the most pressing COVID-19 pandemic disruptions directly impacting them and their businesses.

Here are the top themes, insights and challenges about Grocery/Retail.

During the week of March 29, produce sales continued to show highly elevated levels , despite many chains running limited opening hours. Fresh produce increased 8.1% over the comparable week in 2019, Frozen, +41.6% and Shelf-stable, +51.0%. Download the full report.

Demand shifts as consumers look for new channels for fresh produce

There has been a significant uptick in online ordering, curbside pick-up, and deliver-to-home formats. In response to this shift in consumer needs distributors are connecting directly with consumers through produce box programs. Operators are doing the same with foodservice-type packaging.

Increase in demand for packaged product causing ripple effect in supply side

Consumers are looking for more packaged product, as they see it as being safer than loose product right now. As a result, 49% of consumers are willing to pay more for something they thought was safer and of higher quality. Additionally, retailers moved to larger packs and bags of fresh produce and are using them as promotional opportunities to create grab and go displays/ bin and box programs. Finally, value added store prepped/packaged items seem to be in decline versus branded ready-to-go value-added items, so the demand for packaging at retail is less than normal with no supply chain disruption on retail packaging.

Retailers look to scale (other grades) of produce as a value proposition to consumers

The produce supply chain has excelled and really met most expectations within the industry. Looking forward, grower shippers/importers need to ensure they are taking extra steps in regards to communicating with retailers on hot buy opportunities due to the lack of advertising. Retailers are flexible and will consider the opportunities, but they need to know in advance.

Impacts from restrictions on movement/social distancing on digital and online services

With the increase in ecommerce purchasing and consumers spending more time online, retailers need to ensure they have new and updated images of fresh produce and value items on their website to create those impulse buys. Additionally, virtual shoppers are unaware of how to properly substitute produce, make it clear and easy for them to find what they want.

Communication is key. Grower/Shippers are forecasting demand for late summer without solid projections, so they need communication from retailers to understand what the universe may look like. Summer will be critical for promotions of summer fruit programs. Since much of the trade to Asian is closed off we need North America (USA / Canada) retailers to have aggressive plans.

Finally, the industry has strong GAP’s and SOP’s in place and the entire industry must continue to evaluate their business as it relates to risk analysis and hazard assessments to mitigate risk, including worker safety.

This is part of a series of weekly virtual events designed to provide up-to-date information and opportunities to connect and discuss throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The next virtual roundtable focused on the grocery/retail sector of our industry will be held next Wednesday, April 8.


Interview with the Experts: Dr. Richard Rosenkranz, Kansas State University (April 8)

Hear what research is showing about the healthy and unhealthy habits taking place during the many shelter in placeCovid-19 pandemic. Dr. Rosenkranz discusses ways to reduce sedentary behaviors, how eat half a plate of fruits and vegetables and eat the rainbow, and ways to protect our essential workers from diseases.

Consumer Sentiment During the Coronavirus Crisis (April 8)

PMA's consumer sentiment research aims to provide insight into how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting consumer shopping trends for produce. This is directional information that can help guide PMA and its members with their messaging to consumers during this uncertainty. Download the report.


Digest of Guidance to the Industry (April 6)

This is a digest of WHO, US FDA, CDC, DHS, OSHA, US Equal Employment Commission and EPA guidance to the industry on COVID-19 and how to mitigate the spread of this virus. This document has been updated and is current as of April 5, 2020 to include new FDA recommendations on facility cleaning and detection, and the use of face masks by workers.


Store Safety Flyer and Guide for Retail Managers (April 3)

In response to member needs, PMA has created two new documents to help you with the COVID-19 situation.

Retailers, please consider using these chainwide. Wholesalers, please consider offering these to your independent and small-chain retail customers.


Virtual Town Hall Takeaways

Fresh Produce and Floral Industry Members Connect on Latest COVID-19 Disruptions in Grocery/Retail (April 2)

Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on April 1 around the most pressing COVID-19 pandemic disruptions directly impacting them and their businesses.

Here are the top themes, insights and challenges about grocery/retail.

Short-term projections:

Sales are starting to level off after initial increases of 30-40% with select categories experiencing tremendous growth: potatoes up 115% for example, onions and carrots too. While sales are starting to level off, there is a continued surge in produce sales in fresh, frozen and canned as consumers are now eating as many as three meals a day at home.

Fruit sales are getting more traction vs the March results because consumers are now purchasing items that have a far shorter shelf life.

The produce supply chain remains strong and unchanged. The forecast for spring crops are based on expected growth over 2019, so continued support will be needed from retail.

Advertising & promotional strategies:

Retailers are trying to keep things simple by creating digital circulars that are 2-4 pages instead of 8-page printed circulars. Due to the strength of the produce supply chain, produce departments are being asked to fill in promotional gaps for other departments.

It is recommended that advertising should be geared to address “holidays at home” for a smaller immediate family (4-5 individuals).

Impact of product selection:

  • Bulk packs and packaged produce is in higher favor with consumers.
  • Shippers need buyers for smaller sized product that typically go to foodservice.
  • Maximizing truck capacity loading fewer LTLs / Consolidated loads.
  • Temporary SKU rationalization leveraging top items, full trucks with full layers and full pallets to make everything as efficient as possible. 

Measures retailers have taken to protect workers and customers:

Retailers are taking many measures to protect both workers and customers. Some are very visible and easy to see, such as: physical barriers between customers and cashiers, portable hand washing stations throughout the store, one-way arrows in each aisle with tape on the floor to indicate appropriate social distancing, increased signage at point of sale on safety measures, and greeters at the door offering carts that have been sanitized to ensure the safety measure is taken. Less visible, but equally as important are: adjusted store hours to spread out staff and extra hours to deep clean the store, and limited customer count within the store at one time.

Finally, check out this resource specifically on rinsing produce in water only (video on the right side).

PMA has also launched The Joy of Fresh™, with a variety of consumer-facing tools members can use to draw attention to the importance — and safety — of buying and consuming fresh produce at this time.

This is part of a series of weekly virtual events designed to provide up-to-date information and opportunities to connect and discuss throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The next virtual roundtable focused on the grocery/retail sector of our industry will be held next Wednesday, April 8. Keep checking pma.com for the most current industry resources and information about the pandemic. 

Fresh Produce and Floral Industry Members React to COVID-19 Situation in PMA Virtual Town Hall (March 26)

The retail industry has seen a significant spike in traffic over the past few weeks, with the influx just starting to level off. With the surge in demand for certain products, consumers’ focus on things like organic, local and sustainable goods has shifted for the short term. However, the current push for support for local businesses may make consumers more mindful of how their produce travels in the long-term.

Labor and supply chain issues have become exaggerated throughout the pandemic, with produce transportation being allocated to other products to alleviate consumer demand and growers not having access to workers.

This situation also calls for a renewed focus for cashier-less technology such as self-checkout and e-commerce in the long run.his, and we may see many new business opportunities arise due to the unique situation. The key is for the industry to stay creative, collaborative, and continue to keep the consumer top of mind.

For PMA members only: Read the full recap and watch the general session video


HR 6201 Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Information for Employers (March 27)

HR 6201 is a bill introduced by Rep Nita Lowey, D-NY, that responds to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The bill specifically makes provisions for paid sick leave, tax credits, unemployment benefits and other items.

This fact sheet includes summaries and use for the items related to employers.


Matching Distributors With Retailers (March 26)

I’m spending a lot of my time on a critically important project – connecting those of you who have fresh produce and services to those of you who need it. Matching a distributor’s ability with a retailer’s need. Making connections is part of PMA’s DNA, and during this unprecedented time of crisis, we are using those connections to get fresh produce from where it is to where it needs to go.

And let’s not forget about floral. Many retailers have reached capacity within their distribution model, which has severely impacted inbound shipments of fresh flowers. PMA can work with floral members on the supply side who may have transportation services which could help meet your need for the short term.

In particular, we’re helping foodservice distributors whose restaurant, cruise line, schools and casino and other customers are closed get their produce to retailers who are facing unprecedented demand.

We are connecting supply chain partners who may not have been connected before. Even as we are reaching out to you, we want you to reach out to us. Do you have fresh produce or services and you’re not sure how to get it where it can do the most good? Are you in need of produce?

I thoroughly enjoy the work that I am doing, and I have to say that helping our members connect to get healthy, fresh produce to those in need is extremely gratifying. It’s almost like I am back at my desk in retail, connecting and communicating with so many friends in this great industry.

PMA members are growing a healthier world, and it’s never mattered as much as it does now. Please contact us at MemberServices@pma.com to let us know what you need.

-- Joe Watson, VP of Membership & Engagement, Eastern USA


Behind the science – a conversation with two exposure scientists discussing the implications of recent COVID-19 research (March 24)

It is pretty clear: There is no evidence for foodborne transmission of COVID-19. But what about the worst-case scenario: What if a person who is sick sneezed on a piece of food, and somebody eats it right away?

What measures do we need to implement to ensure that our food supply continues to be the safest in the world?

Answers to these, and other questions, are in this video:

To view Spanish or Portuguese subtitles, click the CC button in the bottom right of the video player.

Contact

Joe Watson - VP of Membership & Engagement Eastern USA

Joe Watson

VP of Membership & Engagement Eastern USA

+1 (302) 607-2141

Email Joe

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