U.S.: Fourth quarter results favorable for fruit, organics
March 27, 2013

Retail sales of fresh fruit and organic produce surged in the fourth quarter, but price deflation and flat movement caused a decline in retail vegetable sales in the period.

 FreshFacts on Retail a quarterly report from the United Fresh Produce Association and Nielsen Perishables Group, shows that fourth quarter 2012 retail sales of fresh produce were up 4.2%, with prices rising 2.6% and volume 1.5% greater compared with the fourth quarter of 2011.The report said that fresh fruit sales in the quarter were up 9.2%, driven higher by a 6.1% increase in average prices and 3% higher volume. Fresh vegetable sales, on the other hand, were off 1.2%, pulled lower by a 1.1% decrease in average prices and a 0.1% drop in volume.

While eight of the top 10 fresh fruits showed volume increases and nine of the top 10 fruits registered higher sales in the fourth quarter, FreshFacts data showed that only packaged salads and squash/pumpkins among the top 10 fresh vegetables showed an increase in sales compared to the fourth quarter of 2011.

Among fruit items, sales growth rates were in double-digit percentages for apples, grapes, berries, avocados, speciality fruits and melons. Stone fruit were down 11.4% in retail sales, the only fruit commodity showing a sales decline.

FreshFacts reported packaged salads was the highest selling vegetable category, showing a 4.3% gain in sales, fueled by a 3.8% gain in volume and a 0.5% bump up in average prices. Potatoes had a lackluster quarter, with retail sales sinking 8.2%, driven down by a 7.5% decrease in the average price and a 0.8% decline in volume.

According to the report value-added fruit sales grew by 12.9% in dollars and 7.5% in volume. Value-added vegetable sales climbed 6.2% and volume rose 7.9% in the quarter.

Led by a 40% gain in organic berry sales and double-digit sales growth for organic apples, grapes, bananas and avocados, organic fruit sales jumped 23.2% in the quarter.

Organic vegetable sales were 11.9% higher, with volume 12% bigger than the fourth quarter of 2011 but average prices off 0.3%.

The Packer