March 2020 Retail Surge Shuffles Apple Performance But Summer Opportunities Abound

WENATCHEE, Wash. – The most recent Stemilt Fast Facts: The Cast reveals that summer apple promotions should be planned out now for continued category success. Stemilt marketing director, Brianna Shales and Katie Harmon, communications manager, join in a video chat to analyze the most recent Nielsen retail scan data from January 16 to April 3 and provides retailers insights on apple category performance. This deep dive into category data also includes the steep sales growth at grocery retail that the produce industry, including apples, experienced last year as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused a seismic shift in March 2020 that make year-over-year comparison challenging,” explains Shales. “In our last Fast Facts: The Cast, apple sales were running up six percent year-over-year during the latest 12 weeks with volumes down a half a percent. This time around, we see volume down nine percent and dollars down 2.8 percent.” 

With the COVID-19 surge, it makes it hard to draw comparisons, explains Shales, however the category is moving in the right direction as retail prices have inched up 11 cents year-over-year to $1.72/lb. This bodes well for apples as they head into the late spring and summer selling months.

“Not surprisingly, all regions saw a decline in dollars and volume in apples from a year ago,” states Shales. “However, the important thing to remember is that March 2020 surge isn’t something we can repeat, but we can elevate the category through promotion, especially on mainline varieties and opportunities in this year’s crop.”

The top five apple varieties by volume were Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji, Granny Smith and Red Delicious. Honeycrisp made up nearly 30 percent of apple dollars with an average retail price of $2.46/lb. and was 20 percent of the volume. Top club varieties include Envy, Ambrosia, Jazz™, Cosmic Crisp® and Opal®. Cosmic Crisp® made up 11.6 percent of club apple sales between mid-January and early April and had the highest average retail at $2.37/lb. It was also the second highest ranking club variety in the Midwest and West regions.

“The top 5 apple and club varieties, powered by Gala and Honeycrisp, dominate the category and will be the best options for summer promotions,” explains Shales. “While the world is starting to normalize again, at-home eating occasions will continue to prevail. Retailers need to remember that summer is still an opportunistic time to promote apples and they should focus on mainstream varieties that make up core business.”

Shales also suggests that bags offer opportunity for apple sales and organics have a spot in summer promotions as well.

“We all need to remember that March 2020 was an extraordinary circumstance and we can’t let the surge stop us from continued dollar growth,” says Shales. “High quality premium apple varieties from Stemilt can offer consumers a delightful eating experience all year long, so retailers need to continue striving for promotional opportunities even when consumer mindsets are shifting to summer produce options.”


About Stemilt

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 through excellence 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