Big spikes in grocery sales, triggered by the start of COVID-19, continue to track more than four months later, with sales gains for the week ending in July 26 11.7 % higher than the same week in 2019. In their weekly update of produce sales data from IRI, VP of Membership and Engagement for PMA, Joe Watson and President, 210 Analytics, Anne Marie Roerink attributed the current spike in food dollars at retail to economic pressure on consumers and the resurgence in COVID-19 cases. The last week in July will be worth watching as the CARES act expires, household sizes shrink with students preparing to return to school in some capacity and shopper concern over rising cases of COVID-19 continues, added Anthony Barbieri, VP of Engagement and Sales for PMA. For more in-depth information on produce sales numbers at retail and insights behind what is driving those numbers, view the full report.
Financial pressure and concern around rising cases of COVID-19 around the nation have caused yet another shift in consumer purchasing patterns, participants shared.
With people at home struggling more financially, consumers are looking toward retailers for discounts and coupon programs. The buy-one-get-one (BOGO) promotion has been increasingly popular as consumers consider financial strain and look to stock their kitchen.
The rising concern for health has pushed consumers to demand more packaged items as well as bigger sizes, as seen in the desire for BOGO promotions. Multi-service options, clam shells and at-home kit services are on the rise, and one participant cited seeing the demand for his largest packaged item increase by up to 63%. Complimentary items also play an integral role in shoppers' purchasing habits. Suppliers and retailers alike are finding value and consumer demand in larger sizes and packages of complimentary items, like in other categories.
While there will always be core business that drives sales, variety is key. Retailers have had to pivot their business models and strategies to battle meal fatigue and product boredom. Some participants have increased their use of social media and other digital platforms to engage with consumers and offer new and exciting menu and product options. Others have trained produce managers to speak about new products or offerings to overcome product boredom, going as far as to encourage sales managers to give away whole products as a replacement for giving away samples.
One thing was clear among all retail participants: Now is the time for suppliers to consider new and innovative products and services. Product and meal fatigue is a real thing, and the industry must stay creative to overcome it.
For insights around what the future might hold for salad and food bars at retail, an area of retail that has been heavily impacted by COVID-19, register for the latest in a series of webinars, hosted by PMA and IDDBA on August 20.
Retailers are paying attention to strong growth in floral sales, with numbers now above last year’s, despite an early pandemic hit. Shoppers are looking for health and happiness, and they’re turning increasingly to floral to fulfill those needs. PMA’s annual Pantone webinar is next Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 12:45 Eastern. Join speakers from Pantone and Flower Circus for targeted macrotrends influencing fashion, home décor and more. And we’ll have a designer’s take on ways to satisfy consumers and grow sales. Register here.
More than four months after the big spikes in grocery sales at the start of the pandemic, CPG sales continue to track well ahead of the 2019 baseline. More than half, 56%, were extremely concerned about COVID-19 this week, according to the IRI survey of primary grocery shoppers. This is the highest share among shoppers since the first week of May.
More than one-third of Americans said they were more concerned now than they were last week, driven by residents of California (49%), Texas (46%) and Florida (42%). This heightened concern is further delaying the recovery of foodservice sales.
Additionally, many shoppers are dealing with financial pressure. In IRI’s survey this past week, 30% of primary grocery shoppers say their financial situation is a little or a lot worse off than it was a year ago.
Download the full report to read more.
Salad bars are an important component of many retailers’ offerings, but since the pandemic they have been closed. In this recorded webinar hosted by PMA and IDDBA, you'll hear from a panel of retailers as they discuss their insights on where salad and food bars are going over the next several months - from equipment issues to safety and labor - as we continue to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The retail panel includes leaders from Albertsons Companies, Gelson's Markets and Giant Eagle.
After weeks of growing transactions and spending in the foodservice channel, the rising number of COVID-19 cases around the country prompted many states to reinstate in-restaurant dining restrictions and limit capacity once more. Hand-in-hand with rising consumer concern, limited restaurant engagement caused dollars to shift back to the retail channel across food categories, including fresh produce. Retail food sales increased 13.7% versus year ago during the week ending July 19 — its highest gain during a non-holiday week since mid-May. 210 Analytics, IRI and PMA partnered to understand fresh produce sales at retail throughout the pandemic.
Download the full report to read more.
It’s been a very bumpy ride for floral since COVID-19 turned the world upside down, but retailers believe and data shows sales moved to the positive starting in May 2020. Though sales took a significant hit early in the pandemic, Mother’s Day seemed to be the turning point, and sales trends now were positive for some key items through summer 2020.
During a recent PMA Floral Roundtable and subsequent online interviews, we asked floral retailers their thoughts on the current situation and the future of floral retail marketing. Optimistic voices noted the desire for healthier homes, celebration opportunities, and general well-being and happiness as reasons for the turn. Here’s what they had to say.
Grocery sales have trended above 2019 levels since the second week of March. Gains during non-holiday weeks had been experiencing some erosion in what seemed to be a slow march back to normal — only interrupted by big spikes during holiday weeks. However, the mounting number of COVID-19 cases around the country is prompting many states to revert to stricter social distancing measures. In some cases, this includes closing in-restaurant dining altogether once more. In others, dine-in capacity restrictions have been sharpened. This resulted in retail food sales increasing 10.7% versus year ago during the second week of July, a point higher than the last non-holiday week in late June.
Elevated every day demand drove sales gains of 11.0% over year ago for fresh produce during the week ending July 12 — the highest in several weeks. Frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables had higher percentage gains but off a smaller base, with particular strength for frozen, at +22.3%. Year-to-date, fresh produce sales are up 10.9% over the same time period in 2019. Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 27.9% year-to-date. This is in spite of limited assortment of frozen vegetables and fruit, down -6.2% in average items per store selling. Download the full report to read more.
When the pandemic arrived in March, supply chains were disrupted. The demand from the foodservice channel was brought almost to a complete halt, right at a key seasonal production transition period. Demand for the top selling fresh produce items skyrocketed and consumers were not as discernible when it came to buying organic versus conventional.
During the pandemic through the week ending June 14, organic produce increased 16.4% in dollars, outpacing total produce gains, at +16.2%. However, the organic gain is calculated on a much smaller base. In fruit, organic grew at almost twice the rate of growth of total produce during the four-week block ending June 14. In vegetables, organic gains trended below those of total vegetables throughout the pandemic.
Weekly Produce Sales at Retail Data
Fresh produce at retail is back! When consumers were in their stock-up mindset early on in the pandemic, the share of fresh produce versus the total fell as low as 70% from our normal position of about 84%. Slowly but surely fresh produce has recovered its position and the holiday week brought the share back up to 84% for the first time since early March. Retailers have overcome ungrounded shopper concerns about food safety and by educating shoppers about items with longer shelf-life to make it through the week with items for now and items for later, the share of fresh produce will further increase in the months to come.
Despite all that has changed amid the pandemic, much is the same as well. Cherries, melons, corn and more all lived up to their holiday strength reputations and helped drive the significant boost over last year’s numbers. Now we need to keep that summer spirit alive in the next seven weeks until Labor Day. Download the full report to read more.
Update from Salinas – Can Supply Meet Expected Demand
Due to the closing of the foodservice industry early on in the pandemic, growers, especially leafy green growers in the Salinas Valley, sustained a lot of losses. There were many uncertainties and to reduce the risk of being exposed to more losses going forward, growers started to cut back 10-15-20% depending on their cycle or commodity being grown.
Historically growers could predict what sales and supplies would be, but that’s not the case for today – they have to be much more reactionary which results in swings in the marketplace. There are still uncertainties in what will be opened (restaurants, schools, etc.) so there is a hesitancy from wholesalers and retailers to bring in more product than they would normally need.
Buyers and growers need to stay in close contact to present opportunities to move product through the pipeline. In order to bridge security of supply at a fair price, they should consider short-term contracts (six weeks, eight weeks) rather than quarterly or annual.
Combatting Pandemic Meal Fatigue – Retail Dietitians Panel
It’s no surprise that people are cooking more at home. That said, they are planning more, using shopping lists, staying within budget and finding creative ways to put meals and snacks together.
Retailers are in a unique position to help with simple meal solutions and make it an experience for the consumers. Leveraging social media, creating meal solutions, providing recipes and cross merchandising ingredients and supplies to make meal time easy and the cleanup even easier is key.
Check out PMA’s Members Helping Members – Combatting Meal Fatigue for tips about making meals easy, fun and different.
Salad bars are an important component of many retailers’ offerings, but since the pandemic they have been closed. Take a look at this webinar hosted by PMA and IDDBA, with panelists from 210 Analytics, Carlson AirFlo, Dover Food Retail (Hillphoenix) and Hussmann Corporation, to understand the importance of salad and food bars and how equipment manufacturers are offering clever solutions to keep the bars useful to retailers and shoppers.
All 2020 holidays affected by the coronavirus pandemic have seen strong sales results, from Easter and Mother’s Day to Memorial Day and Father’s Day. Several of these are big restaurant holidays during regular years and dollars shifted to the grocery channel as people celebrated at home. July Fourth is already a big at-home grilling holiday, which means beating prior year numbers is much harder. At the same time, many states re-strengthened social distancing measures, including restricting restaurant dine-in capacity once more. Concern over the virus among consumers is rising, which could have augmented holiday demand with renewed focus on cooking at home.
During the week ending July 5, elevated everyday plus holiday demand drove gains of +9.1% for fresh produce — higher than the week prior, but not as high as Father’s Day. Frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables did continue to see double-digit gains, with particular strength for frozen, at +24.4%. Year-to-date, fresh produce sales are up 10.6% over the same time period in 2019. Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 28.0% year-to-date. This is in spite of limited assortment of frozen vegetables and fruit, down -6.7% in average items per store selling. Download the full report to read more.
Retail members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on July 8 to discuss weekly produce sales at retail, a Fourth of July recap and late summer expectations.
Weekly Produce Sales at Retail Data
Banking on elevated everyday demand alone, it was expected that the week ending June 28 would be down from the prior week. However, the decline to single-digit gains shows that retailers need to continue to work hard to stay ahead of last year.
After narrowing significantly during Father’s Day week, the volume/dollar gap jumped back up to reach its highest point since the onset of the pandemic. Inflation is now occurring at a higher rate in produce as dollar gains paced 4.2 percentage points ahead of volume gains.
In the ever-changing top 10 in terms of absolute dollar gains, tomatoes took over as the new leader from berries during the week of June 28 versus a year ago. Berries dropped to third, whereas lettuce remained in second place. Download the full report to read more.
Recap of July 4th – Learnings from the Field
Record sales were expected for the July 4th week, as well as record heat in some parts of the country. With the summer heat, consumers are looking for new and fresh produce items that haven’t been available throughout the pandemic, including berries, cherries and melons. This was evident in the sales, in that nearly every category in the produce department clicked on all cylinders (corn, melons, cherries, stone fruits) and saw significant double-digit increases.
With the holiday landing on a Saturday this year, store traffic increased in some cases, but overall the percentage of business from online versus in-store stayed relatively stable. Consumers are ready for normalcy, and while many didn’t head to the beach or out of town like normal, they still celebrated the holiday weekend with friends, families and neighbors at home.
Late Summer Expectations – Demand / Promotions / Events (seasonal)
It’s certainly the time for summer fruit, and consumers are looking for something fresh. Cherries are a hot commodity and will continue to be so through August, as well as apples since they are a convenient, grab-and-go snack.
Retailers usually see soft weeks following July 4th weekend, but with the dog days of summer coming up, and July usually being a vacation month for consumers, it will be interesting to see the demand for certain products and how that plays out regionally.
Expectations for students heading back to school at the end of August are still up in the air, but retailers should keep this in mind and plan to address it and how it may impact some produce categories. Students will go back to school, it’s just a matter of when and in what format.
As consumers grapple with the ongoing restrictions around COVID-19, they are eating at home a lot more. Pulling out favorite recipes, making bread, watching the cooking shows for tips were all great pastimes – for a while. Now pandemic meal fatigue is setting in as people tire of the same meals day after day and the cooking and cleaning up that goes with it. We hear it anecdotally from retailers, and consumer research also points to this trend. According to the 2020 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report, in mid-May, 23% of shoppers said their priority when cooking is to spend as little time as possible doing it.
So, PMA asked some members for their best tips about making meals easy, fun and different. Many of them use convenience items from throughout the grocery store. Using take-out from restaurants could work as well. These tips can spark ideas with shoppers that enliven their at-home meal planning and cut down on prep and cleanup. Use them in your communications with shoppers online, in circulars, on social media and in-store. Here’s what they had to say.
The week ending June 28 was the week in between Father’s Day and the Fourth of July, which means everyday demand alone was driving the sales numbers. Food and beverage sales remained well above last year’s levels as consumers bought for the additional at-home meal occasions, particularly breakfast and lunch. At the same time, shoppers continued to mix and match fresh with center store items, including for produce, where gains for frozen and canned remained highly elevated.
During the week ending June 28, elevated everyday drove gains of 5.8% for fresh produce — the lowest growth rate since April 19 when sales went up against the 2019 Easter holiday bump. Frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables did continue to see double-digit gains, with particular strength for frozen, at +22.0%. Year-to-date, fresh produce sales are up 10.6% over the same time period in 2019. Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 33.6% year-to-date. This is in spite of limited assortment of frozen vegetables and fruit, down 13.1% in average items per store selling. Download the full report to read more.
The week ending June 21 was Father’s Day weekend, and it resulted in a significant boost for fresh produce, both fruit and vegetables. At the same time, the demand for center-store items, including frozen and canned fruit and vegetables, also remained strong. This points to consumers still celebrating special occasions at home in addition to the many more at-home everyday meal occasions.
As a result, grocery sales, and produce along with it, remained well above the 2019 base line. In fact, the fresh perimeter (meat, bakery, deli, produce, seafood and floral) doubled last weeks’ growth rate, at 19.1% for the week ending June 21 — three percentage points higher than the total store growth rate. Download the full report to read more.
Organic fruits and vegetables continue to maintain a strong position to total fresh produce sales at 9% of total. However, prior to the pandemic (early March) the organic produce share was 9.6% of total. So while organic produce is growing in dollar sales the category has lost some positioning due to the persistent deflation within the category. Download the full report for more information.
Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on June 24 to discuss fresh produce sales at retail, consumer behaviors, retail operations and a look ahead to the Fourth of July. PMA Vice Presidents Joe Watson and Anthony Barbieri hosted a panel of retailers to discuss what the next few weeks will look like at the store level.
During the week of June 14, fresh, frozen and shelf-stable produce continued to see strong sales, with increases in numbers dipping below double-digits to 9.8% for the first time in five weeks. PMA’s partner at 210 Analytics attributed this dip to competition with Father’s Day the following week, and retailers can expect these numbers to rise back into the double digits next week.
With an additional $125 million in fresh produce sales in the week of June 14, there has been some erosion in dollar growth, which will continue to trend as foodservice operations gear back up across the nation. After months of staying home and cooking for themselves, consumers are beginning to fatigue of having to find new recipes for meals. This is an opportunity for the fresh produce industry; help consumers source new recipes around commodities and products they may not usually use. Download the full report.
As regions across the country begin to lift restrictions, consumer behaviors are changing and retail operations are shifting and adapting to those behaviors. Things like store occupancy limits, operating hours and aisle directions are shifting back to normal in regions where things are beginning to open back up. In areas that are still on lockdown, store restrictions stand, and one participant noted that in areas where masks are required, only about 50% of customers are wearing masks. Comparatively, in stores that still utilize one-way aisles, about 75% of customers follow the directions and 25% ignore them.
Before COVID-19 Sunday sales were falling, causing concern for what was the most popular shopping day of the week. Throughout the pandemic mid-week shopping rose in popularity, a trend that continues, however recent numbers show Sunday sales beginning to rebound as some stores reopen as well. As store hours and occupancy limits shift, consumers are making less frequent shopping trips and are purchasing more per-trip. This shift has affected things like impulse buying, customer counts and in-store labor needs.
Consumer concern for health led to a demand for more packaging and options for quick grab and go items. As a result retailers came out with more bagged and packaged produce that would not usually be packaged. While consumers are looking for this item less now, participants anticipate bringing back bagged commodities in the fall for items such as apples.
With the Fourth of July holiday falling on a Saturday this year, retailers are expecting to see record sales numbers. While demand is expected to be high this year, retailers are experiencing challenges in sourcing certain commodities such as cherries, watermelon and corn. When asked how they plan to advertise alternatives for corn one participant noted “how do you come up with an alternative for corn? It’s a Fourth of July staple.” While these commodities present supply challenges, participants aren’t going to let that stop them from having a successful holiday. The key to success will be proper merchandising, advertising and planning.
While summer sales patterns are in full swing, demand for fresh, frozen and canned produce continues to shift. Consumers increasingly have the opportunity to dine out and many are fatigued with their tried-and-true recipes. Restaurant transactions and spending gained back ground during the second week of June, but grocery sales, and produce along with it, remained well above the 2019 base line. This is in spite of going up against the Father’s Day 2019 sales bump that fell one week earlier than in 2020.
During the week of June 14, elevated everyday demand drove high gains for fresh, frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce year-over-year growth for this week versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 9.8%, down several points from the week prior. Year-to-date, fresh produce sales are up 10.6% over the same time period in 2019, a steady hold from prior week. Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 22.7%. This gain is in spite of limited assortment availability for frozen vegetables and fruit, down 9.0% in average items per store selling. Download the full report to read more.
The first week of June marks three full months of coronavirus-related shopping patterns. While restaurant competition for the food dollar is gearing up, grocery sales remained highly elevated. Additionally, trends in trips, basket size, product selections and channel choices continue to change as pandemic shopping develops. This results in an ever-changing demand landscape for fresh produce, and frozen and canned fruits and vegetables along with it.
During the first week of June, elevated everyday demand drove double-digit produce gains for fresh, frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce year over-year growth for the week of June 7 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 13.2%, the exact same gain as the week prior. Year-to-date, fresh produce sales are up 10.5% over the same time period in 2019. Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 22.3%. This gain is in spite of limited assortment availability for frozen vegetables and fruit, down 9.5% in average items per store selling. Download the full report.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen sampling come to a halt. We know that sampling is an important marketing tool for fresh produce – from introducing new items or varieties to reminding shoppers of all-time favorites. The great taste of fresh fruits and vegetables will win them over.
So we asked retail, supplier and packaging members their thoughts on the future of sampling. Here’s what they had to say.
Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on June 10 to discuss fresh produce sales at retail and food waste technologies. PMA Vice Presidents Joe Watson and Anthony Barbieri shared the latest fresh produce sales numbers for the last week of May, and their implications on the industry.
The last week of May saw robust and strong sales of fresh, frozen and shelf-stable produce. With an additional $166 million in fresh produce sales, fresh produce year-over-year growth for the week of May 31 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 13.2%. Fresh vegetables, up 18.8%, continued to outperform fresh fruit, which dropped back into single-digit gains (8.6%). Download the full report.
The top three growth items in terms of absolute dollar gains over the same week in 2019 were cherries, berries and lettuce. This is a positive sign for summer fruit, such as berries and cherries, which traditionally see strong sales this time of year. Throughout the pandemic staple items such as potatoes and lettuce topped the charts. In what Watson noted as a “refreshing change,” cherries and berries topping the charts this week indicates that other summer vegetable and fruit trends are likely to hold up as well.
With 42% of consumers still spending less time in the store while shopping, Watson emphasized the importance of merchandizing and engaging consumers before they enter the store. Fresh produce sales, particularly fresh fruit, rely heavily on impulse buys. It is important to make sure consumers are aware of great batches of new product, or deals on particular items before they get to the store, pushing them to impulsively grab for that fresh watermelon or two-for-one deal on cherries as they rush by.
While demand for products is still driving strong dollar sales, ample supply is suppressing prices, contributing to significant volume/dollar gaps for items such as avocados, onions and peppers. During the last week of May, restaurants in many states started to reopen dine-in facilities with social distancing measures in place. This increase in produce demand from the foodservice side of business will continue to balance out supply and demand in 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, June 17.
Restaurants in many states have started to reopen dine-in facilities with social distancing measures in place, with subsequent improvements in reservation and transaction metrics and continued elevated engagement with takeout. This increase in produce demand from the foodservice side of the business came on top of continued elevated levels of at-home meal occasions. This results in an ever-changing demand landscape for grocery retailing as a whole, and produce along with it.
During the last week of May, elevated everyday demand drove double-digit produce gains for fresh, frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce year-over-year growth for the week of May 31 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 13.2%. Year-to-date, fresh produce sales are up 10.4% over the same time period in 2019. Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 28.8%, despite continued high out-of-stocks and severely limited assortment availability for both frozen vegetables and fruit. Year-to-date growth for frozen was also +28.8% versus last year. Download the full report.
Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on June 3 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
Memorial Day week elevated everyday and holiday demand and drove double-digit produce gains for fresh, frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce year-over-year growth for the week of May 24 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 14.3%. Fresh vegetables, up 20.0%, continued to easily outperform fruit (+9.5%). Frozen once more had the highest gains, up 33.8%, despite continued high out-of-stocks and severely limited assortment availability for both frozen vegetables and fruit. The top three growth items in terms of absolute dollar gains over the same week in 2019 were lettuce, berries and potatoes. While the volume/dollar gap has dissolved overall, there are several vegetables where significant gaps remain, including peppers, avocados and onions. Download the full report.
Potatoes – A category which carries more than its weight
The growth in demand for potatoes has been astronomical, with a 30-40% increase. There is no sign of this demand softening any time soon, even as foodservice comes back. Retailers are seeing sales over last year’s holiday peak, and with the launch of the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program, the demand for potatoes will continue to rise.
With the huge shift toward bagged products due to consumers wanting untouched products, retailers have seen the biggest increase in purchased of the 8-lb. and 5-lb. bags of potatoes.
Blueberries – A superfood with super opportunities
Consumers are keenly aware of and interested in nutrition benefits of their food and they are looking for immunity boosting and overall health building products, and blueberries fulfill that need. The berry category is $6 million at retail and $2 million of that category is blueberries. There has been a year over year growth, especially for frozen and fresh-organic, though conventional has seen growth too.
As we move into the peak supply months of blueberries and National Blueberry Month (coming up in July), retailers need to promote the nutrition and convenience of this super food. Retailers need to continue to drive demand and impulse purchases – not just in the store, but also on their digital platforms.
Click and collect, and delivery services have changed the produce theater – berries are an impulse purchase, so retailers must ensure that those sales don’t slip and promote and merchandise blueberries appropriately.
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, June 10.
Memorial Day signals the traditional start of the summer grilling season, with meat and produce promotions typically dominating the front page of grocery circulars around the country. This year, however, the tight meat supply created a starring role for fresh produce in many of the weekly ads. Additionally, social distancing measures prompted smaller gatherings and fewer people traveling for Memorial Day, resulting in continued elevated engagement with grocery retailing, and produce along with it.
Memorial Day week, elevated everyday and holiday demand drove double-digit produce gains for fresh, frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce year-over-year growth for the week of May 24 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 14.3%. Fresh vegetables, up 20.0%, continued to easily outperform fruit (+9.5%). Frozen once more had the highest gains, up 33.8%, despite continued high out-of-stocks and severely limited assortment availability for both frozen vegetables and fruit. Download the full report.
Members of the fresh produce and floral supply chain connected in virtual roundtables on May 27 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
In the non-holiday week, fresh produce sales held their elevated ground. During the third week of May, everyday demand drove double-digit produce gains for fresh, frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce year-over-year growth for the week of May 17 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 16.0% — very similar to the prior week’s 17.1%.
Fresh vegetables continued to easily outperform fruit, but both achieved double-digit increases. Frozen once more had the highest gains, up 48.4%, despite continued high out-of-stocks in the frozen food aisle. Download the full report.
Southern Hemisphere Citrus – South African
Globally, South Africa is the second largest exporter of citrus. Business is in full swing and the crop is looking good in quality, taste and size. With increased crop and deals with U.S. partners, the shipments of citrus will begin arriving in the U.S. toward the end of May (specifically easy peelers, navels).
The landscape for retailers continues to change. There is an increased demand for packaged goods so retailers need to continue to work with importers on import packs to meet the needs for the upcoming season – there are a lot of bagging sizes and opportunities to take advantage of new packaging. While demand is strong, the economy is struggling so retailers need to look forward and recognize FOB cost in retail and must be at a level that supports all parties to keep product moving.
In the last two months, citrus items have been on the rise and there is increased demand as well as increased expectations for the products. Consumers are going to continue buying fruit that have health benefits, and citrus plays a big part of that and will continue to grow.
Summer Fruit – Stones that are Gems
Summer heat brings out the best in seasonal stone fruit. The eating quality seems to be very good due to early reports of a higher BRIX. Overall, the season is anticipated to be a great one, with a plentiful and flavorful supply to last through the summer.
As discussed before, new packaging ideas and promotions will be key for retailers to consider in order to increase consumer demand of stone fruit throughout the season. The crop this year will have more smaller sized fruit with the opportunity for that fruit to be merchandised in bags presenting a good consumer value. Promoting the produce front and center in the store, while also making the assortment stand out and look different, will draw the consumers in to make purchases.
Memorial Day Performance - Retail Perspective
Memorial Day looked a lot different this year and the sales of some produce items were a little unexpected. Performance varied by geography with cooler cloudy weather in certain areas holding back sales. We heard that in the eastern U.S., melon sales were lower than expected, while corn, potatoes and peppers did very well. In the southeastern U.S., melons, as well as stone fruit and corn had a bigger surge in sales than expected.
In some cases, Memorial Day sales rivaled those of July 4, which is spectacular, but that means retailers will need to get a plan in place to make sure they are able to meet the demand when that next holiday comes around.
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, June 3.
Two months after panic purchases drove the biggest sales weeks in the history of modern grocery retailing, coronavirus-related shopping patterns for produce appear to be settling into a steady elevated trend line. In between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, the week of May 17 was relatively free of holiday-related influences. Driven by everyday demand that sits well above the old normal, grocery sales had another good week, and fresh produce along with it.
During the third week of May, everyday demand drove double-digit produce gains for fresh, frozen and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce year-over-year growth for the week of May 17 versus the comparable week in 2019 increased 16.0% — very similar to the prior week’s 17.1%. Fresh vegetables continued to easily outperform fruit, but both achieved double-digit increases. Frozen once more had the highest gains, up 48.4%, despite continued high out-of-stocks in the frozen food aisle.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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:
This was originally posted on MorningNewsBeat on April 27, 2020.
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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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’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 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.
See more information about USDA labeling flexibilities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
Source: IRI, Total US, MULO, week ending March 29, 2020. Download the full report.
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:
Source: IRI, Total US, MULO, week ending March 22, 2020. Download the full report.
As coronavirus social distancing measures are tightening and the number of confirmed cases are growing, retail sales are surging. Download the full report.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.