Prices Up, Volume Down for Most Fresh Produce

Retail dollar sales are up versus last year for almost all of the nation’s twenty most popular produce items, but those gains are due primarily to price inflation, Steve Lutz executive vice president of the Perishables Group, said yesterday during “Shifting Consumer Purchase Patterns: Reactions to a Tight Economy” a seminar and panel discussion at the United Fresh Produce Association’s annual trade show.

LAS VEGAS — Retail dollar sales are up versus last year for almost all of the nation’s twenty most popular produce items, but those gains are due primarily to price inflation, Steve Lutz executive vice president of the Perishables Group, said yesterday during “Shifting Consumer Purchase Patterns: Reactions to a Tight Economy” a seminar and panel discussion held here at the United Fresh Produce Association’s annual trade show.

The trend of higher prices and lower volumes has continued during the most recent 13 weeks, he added, with only grapes, berries and avocados demonstrating volume growth. In 1,600 consumer interviews conducted by the Perishables Group, 75% of respondents said they had noticed fresh produce prices rising; 43% of respondents said they were reacting by buying more products on sale; 29% said they were reading store circulars more often, and 25% said they were using more coupons.

Lutz said that other data from these surveys, when compared with loyalty card scan data, indicate that shoppers are responding in several different ways as they try to save money during the ongoing recession. They’re trading down to less expensive items within a category; trading out of categories or out of a fresh department entirely; buying less per trip, but making more frequent trips in an effort to reduce waste and spoilage at home; buying select items in larger quantities to take advantage of specials; switching to other retail formats, such as dollar stores, supercenters and discount formats; and visiting restaurants less and supermarkets more often.

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