WENATCHEE, Wash. – We’re stepping into spring with a pep in our step and with another episode of Fast Facts: The Cast to discuss the last 12 weeks of apple category data with Stemilt Marketing Director, Brianna Shales and Merchandising Manager, Jocelyn Gerard. This week, we’re discussing the latest 12 weeks of data from Nielson on apple category performance from December 5, 2021, to February 26, 2022.
“Apple dollars went up another percent over the last 12-week period which is pretty striking and good to see,” said Gerard enthusiastically. “We know that has to do with some of the inflationary factors and supply and demand.”
In the produce department, apples were 6% of dollars on a total U.S. basis. In the Midwest region, they were 6.7% of total produce dollars. On the flipside, apple volumes were driven down 1.74% nationally by a smaller national crop compared to the same time period last year. Due to a smaller crop and food inflation, apple dollars are up nearly 8% nationally in just one year. Organics were 12% of apple category volume nationally and 16% of category sales during this period. In the Northeast region, organics were 15% of apple volume and 20.5% of sales during this period
“The total produce department is holding steady at 6% of total produce sales,” said Shales. “When we looked at the top varieties, we saw that these numbers remained unchanged. We did see some amazing double-digit growth in Red Delicious and Pink Lady® apples with dollars up 40% on Pink Lady® compared to a year ago at this time.”
The top six apples by volume pounds sold were: Gala at 22% of apple pounds sold, Honeycrisp at 19.7%, Fuji at 11.6%, Granny Smith at 10.7%, Red Delicious at 9.2% and Pink Lady® at 5.6%. All varieties experienced dollar sales lift because of rising apple retails. Cosmic Crisp was the #12 apple nationally over the past 12 weeks. It was up 37% up in volume in the Northeast region and up 25% in volume in the South region compared to a year ago. Granny Smith is down in volume by 6.9% year over year but has opportunities for promotion to help retailers move more volume, while still enjoying the elevated retail price over last year.
“Granny Smith apples were up in dollars 4.4% but down in pounds almost 7%,” explained Gerard. “This is a really strong time for Granny Smith as far as supply and quality goes and that can be concerning because last period was a similar type of direction. I want to call out Granny Smith as a great option for retailers to promote right now to capture some of those bulk sales that they’ve been winning at so far this season.”
Retailers could see category lift through consistent promotions of Granny Smith apples and other core varieties to balance out some of the volume decline. Bagged apple retails have grown two times as fast as bulk driven by supply and demand over the last year. When looking at bags, the 3 lb. size drives 70% of apple volumes that sold in bags nationally and 29% of total apple pounds sold. Nationally, 58% of apple volume pounds sold were bulk while the remaining 41% was in bags
“Over the past quarter, when I’ve done store checks in the Chicago metro area, I see a lot of bulk mainline apples on ad,” said Gerard. “I see them on front tables, and I see bag items treated more like a staple with definitely a higher everyday retail than what we saw last season. The demand we’ve had on bags has continued from COVID and tightened up the supply and elevated retails. This presents an opportunity for bulk to be promoted which is great since there’s good supply.”
Bag retails have increased 12.2% in one year and now average $1.63/lb. Bulk retails have grown 5.6% in one year and now average $2.05/lb. The average retail for apples is $1.87/lb. Bags have remained in high demand due to multiple factors including consumers seeking convenience and ease of merchandising at retail.
“As we migrate into the spring and selling months for apples, it’s important to keep up with promotions, but to focus on bulk fruit,” said Shales. “Bulk is an important dollar driver to the category and offers the best opportunity with the crop that remains.”
Stemilt is a family-owned grower, packer, and shipper of tree fruit. Owned and operated by the Mathison family, Stemilt’s mission is to cultivate people and delight consumers with its World Famous Fruits. Stemilt is a leader in sweet cherries and organic tree fruits, and a key supplier of apples and pears. The company stewards an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible business through its Responsible Choice® program, which has been in place since 1989. For more information about Stemilt, visit www.stemilt.com.