American consumers are not only still buying fruit and vegetables despite the economic pressures of 2022’s inflationary cycle, but sales have actually increased, according to a new release of annual produce industry report.
The Food Industry Association (FMI) released its Power of Produce 2023 report on March 3. The most notable take away from the FMI’s research is that in 2022, produce sales grew 4.8 percent despite a year over year record inflation rate as high as 9.1 percent.
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Although the 4.8 percent growth amounted to a $74.5 billion spend in the United States on fruit and vegetables, overall pounds of product moved decreased.
Rick Stein, FMI Vice President of Fresh Foods stated in the release, “The shift we’re noticing is that shoppers turned to more affordable conventional fresh fruits and vegetables and canned and frozen vegetables rather than buying pricier organic items.”
The organization added that overall produce sales had increased by 19 percent with sales volume increasing by 3.4 percent since 2019.
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FMI research finds that 58 percent of Americans report eating fresh fruit and vegetables between four and five times per week, with 72 percent eating the commodities at dinner and 56 percent at breakfast.
The Association did find, however, that inflation had impacted the organic segment as consumers searched for bargains, conveniences, and cost reductions, such as purchasing frozen or canned items.
These results appear to form a continuation of a pandemic era trend. Industry magazine The Packer released the results of its Fresh Trends 2022 statistics, based on a September of 2021 survey of 1,000 members of a “nationwide consumer panel.”
Respondents reported their favorite fruit was bananas and favorite vegetable was potatoes and tomatoes at 63, 62, and 61 percent respectively.
Second place for fruit was a close race between strawberries, grapes, and apples at 56, 55, and 55 percent, while tomatoes and onions took silver and bronze in the vegetable race at 61 and 57 percent.
The Packer found that income, age, and ethnicity “stand out as the prime factors in determining a produce purchase when analyzing the whole picture,” stating that respondents who earned $100,000 annually or more were the most likely to purchase fruits and vegetables, while those making $25,000 or less were the least likely to purchase real foods.
Respondents aged 60 and up were also the most likely to purchase traditional foods, while those in the 18 to 29 age bracket were the least likely to buy fruits and vegetables.
They also found that members of the Black race were the least likely to purchase produce, while Latinos had become “among the most likely” to buy.
Impacts of a changing economic scenario were already being felt in late 2021, the paper found, noting that 48 percent of respondents said they were cooking at home more often than in previous years.
The demand for fresh foods is a boon for the brick and mortar grocery industry. Payment processor industry analyst PYMNTS reported in mid-February that only 7 percent of shoppers were purchasing fruits and vegetables from e-commerce retailers.
54 percent were reported to shop in stores “all the time.”
CEO of grocery chain JackBe Alex Ruhter told the magazine, “It’s really hard to nail the quality of freshness and ripeness that customers would choose if they were shopping themselves.”
“So, we’ve really been intentional about training our staff to know how to pick fresh produce, but also asking our customers if they’d like to see their produce even before it gets in their car, and then we can confirm that it’s exactly what they want,” Ruhter added.
The data stands in harmony with a March 1 report by PYMNTS that likewise found that 54 percent of shoppers refuse to purchase meat from e-commerce websites.