Posted on

Fresh produce sales slip in US

Fresh produce sales slip in US
Photo: Walmart US

US fresh produce sales in March 2021 were down on the levels registered in the same month in 2020, but still ahead of the 2019 level. Bucking the trend were berries, which recorded sales increases of 28% compared to 2019 and 9% compared to 2020, according to a joint report published by 210 Analytics, PMA and IRI. Total produce sales for the four weeks ending March 28 fell 7.6% year-on-year. However, in comparison to 2019, fresh produce sales at retail were up 11%. 

Fresh produce sales remained unchanged from February 2021 at $5.4 billion , a $435million year-on-year fall, but were up $524 million from the 2019 pre-pandemic level. This includes a $242million increase in fruit and a $283 million increase in vegetables.

Joe Watson, vice president of membership and engagement for the Produce Marketing Association said: “We knew the year-over-year picture would radically change come March in going up against the early pandemic spikes of 2020. But while the year-ago picture is always important, it is just as important to understand current demand relative to the pre-pandemic normal as the country is starting to open up a little more each day.”

Prices for fresh fruit and vegetables were 8-9% higher compared to March 2020 levels.

TAGS: US, retail, produce, March 2021

Posted on

US organic sales rise 9.3%

Supermarket shelves
Photo: Organic fresh F&V in US store by Eurofresh Distribution

Sales of organic fresh fruit and vegetables in the US climbed 9.3% Y-O-Y in the first 3 months of 2021, reaching $2.2 billion, according to Organic Produce Network data. Retail sales grew in all organic segments due to restaurant closures and outpaced conventional produce sales, which rose by only 2.9%. In volume terms, sales of organic fresh produce grew by 5.7%, while sales of conventional produce slipped 0.6%.

Of the top 10 categories, only organic carrots and apples dropped in value and volume during the first quarter. Packaged salads remain the largest organic segment, accounting for 17% of all organic sales. Sales of organic packaged salads grew by 9.5% in value during the first quarter of 2021. Another key category is organic berries, which accounted for around 15% of total organic produce sales during the first quarter. Sales of berries increased by 8.8% during the first 3 months of 2021.

Matt Seeley, CEO of Organic Produce Network, said: “Once again, sales of organic fresh produce continue to be a major growth opportunity for retailers across the country. At the same time, as the country enters a post-COVID environment, with restaurants reopening and other foodservice options available, it appears the double-digit growth rate will be slowing.” 

 

Posted on

US consumers join struggle to combat food waste

US consumers join struggle to combat food waste
Photo: USA store by Eurofresh Distribution Magazine

US consumers are making lifestyle changes to reduce food waste, according to new research by Proagrica. The study found that 76% of shoppers say they are more likely to shop more often and in smaller quantities to avoid having to throw away unwanted or spoiled food. Around 74% are now likely to buy more frozen food for the same reason, and 50% state they are now prepared to buy the “ugly” fruit and vegetables.

Men are more willing than women to accept less attractive foodstuffs (56% vs 46%).

As for who is most responsible for food waste, 41% of respondents said it is farmers, while 42% said it is manufacturers. Less than a quarter said it was consumers’ responsibility to reduce food waste by changing their own behaviours and shopping habits. Hence, the study suggests that the onus is on the food sector to do more to reduce the amount of discarded food. Nevertheless, 77% say they’re trying to reduce “food miles” by buying more locally sourced produce.

Graeme McCracken, managing director at Proagrica, said: “US consumers still feel it is primarily the responsibility of farmers and food producers to do more to alleviate the problem. Businesses in the food and agriculture industries need to actively show they are working together to make their operational processes more transparent and more efficient.”

 

Posted on

Strong US demand for fresh produce 

Strong US demand for fresh produce 
Photo: Eurofresh Distribution

January saw a 9.7% year-on-year rise in sales of produce, according to a report by the PMA, IRI and 210 Analytics. The figure excludes online-only and delivery e-commerce sales, which are well up on 2020 levels.

Joe Watson, VP of Membership and Engagement for the PMA, said: “Produce at retail had a strong January, driven by the two middle weeks ending January 17 and 24. We continue to see highly elevated sales results for vegetables, that are very much in line with the gains seen in the meat department — both pointing at more meals prepared at home. Retail fruit gains have been in the high single digits since the third quarter of 2020 and remain a big opportunity for more at-home snacking, breakfast and lunch.”

Fresh produce generated $6.3 billion in sales during the January weeks. This reflects $198 million in additional fruit sales and $383 million in additional vegetable sales. In fruit, berries remained a dominant force, as did citrus, with sales up 13.1% year-over-year, showing consumers’ consistent turn towards foods perceived to offer healthier lifestyles. Lemons and oranges were the fastest growers. Only grapes lost ground.

As for vegetables, there were double-digit gains for eight out of the 10 leading items.

 

Posted on

Safeway sources from vertical farms

Safeway sources from vertical farms
Photo: Plenty

US retailer Safeway is making healthy greens more accessible to smaller communities by welcoming produce from vertical farming company Plenty to 17 more stores across Northern California — bringing the total number of stores carrying Plenty products in the region to 53, according to Progressive Grocer. The additional Albertsons-owned stores, which include Safeway and Vons, are part of a multiyear agreement between the two companies to expand Plenty produce into more than 430 Albertsons-owned stores across the state of California. The new store locations are primarily in smaller communities, making Plenty the first indoor vertically farmed produce available to these shoppers.

Plenty’s plant scientists, engineers and farmers have developed its indoor vertical-farming technology to grow nutrient-rich and pesticide-free plants year-round. Using data analytics, machine learning and customized lighting, the farming tech company is able to coax the natural flavours and nutrients from the plants. Plenty grows multiple crops in a building the size of a retail box store, yielding hundreds of acres using a fraction of the water and other precious resources.

In addition to debuting in more store locations, Plenty is debuting a first-of-its-kind Text-a-Farmer feature, on display next to its greens in stores. In the age of COVID, when human contact has been limited and in-person sampling restricted, Plenty’s texting feature connects with shoppers directly to answer questions and share information. Text-a-Farmer lets shoppers text questions while shopping and receive an answer directly from a Plenty farmer. Questions can cover anything related to Plenty and its produce, including “Do you use pesticides on your leafy greens,” “Is your packaging recyclable,” and “How do I keep my greens fresh longer?”

Posted on

EU and US conclude negotiations on agricultural quotas 

EU and US conclude negotiations on agricultural quotas 

 

The European Union and the United States have reached an agreement to adjust the European Union’s World Trade Organisation (WTO) agricultural quotas, following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This is the culmination of two years of negotiations in the WTO framework to divide these EU quotas, with part of the volume remaining with the EU 27, and part going to the UK, based on recent trade flows. The agreement covers dozens of quotas and billions of euros of trade including for beef, poultry, rice, dairy products, fruits and vegetables and wines.

Commenting on the agreement reached in principle, Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciejowski said: “I am delighted we have reached agreement with our most important trade partner the US. This agreement – done inside the framework of the WTO – preserves the original volumes but shares them between the EU and the UK. It gives certainty and stability to agricultural trade and our markets. I am particularly pleased that this agreement marks the significance of our trade and economic relationship. This sends a good signal of our commitment to work together both bilaterally and in the WTO framework. I want to thank my team and our US colleagues for a job well done”.

The EU is conducting similar tariff rate quotas (TRQ) apportionment negotiations with twenty-one other partners having rights to access these quotas, and has concluded negotiations already with Argentina, Australia, Norway, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia and others.

Once the Commission has adopted the EU-US Agreement, it will then be sent to the Council and European Parliament for ratification, so that it can enter into force as soon as possible.

 

Posted on

The US has become a nation of “super” avocado-consumers 

The US has become a nation of “super” avocado-consumers 
Photo: HAS AVOCADO BOARD

A recent Hass Avocado Board (HAB) study shows that avocados purchases grew substantially between 2016 and 2019, driven largely by a growing segment of “super” avocado shoppers. Super avocado-purchasing households spend at least US$26 annually on avocados and contributed to 94% of the increase in avocado purchases over the three-year period (2016-2019). In 2019, these households accounted for 70% of all avocado purchases in the US. The study is based on household purchase data from the IRI Consumer NetworkTM. 

This household segment is growing faster than the other three segments analysed in the study, accounting for 28% of all US households in 2019, up from 25% in 2016. “Light” households accounted for only 22% of households in 2019, down from 25% in 2016.

Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board, said, “As avocado shoppers move to higher purchase levels, they will find themselves as a member of the Super household segment. Understanding and engaging with this shopper group is key to the future growth of the avocado category.”

Two key recommendations of the study are to develop marketing activities that bring new shoppers into the category and drive more trips to retailers, while also focusing on marketing for the Super avocado-purchasing household group.

 

Posted on

Growth of US fruit imports stalls

Growth of US fruit imports stalls
Photo by Dirt to Dinner

US fruit imports were rather flat in 2020, with the exception being for fresh citrus and  frozen fruit,  according to new  USDA data. Overall imports of fresh, frozen and processed fruit rose by less than 1% Y-O-Y to US$19.9 billion in 2020. This contrasts with the significant annual growth recorded by the  category since 2010, when imports were as low as US$10.4 billion. There were falls in imports of avocados (-12% to $2.3  billion), bananas (-2% to $1.9 billion), blueberries (-5% to $982 million),  strawberries (-2% to $819 million), and apples (-18% to $110  million). Citrus imports rose  by 11% to $1.4  billion, driven mainly  by growth in mandarins and oranges. Table grape imports were also up, +4% to $1.7  billion,  

In terms of sources, shipments from Mexico and Chile were both down 3%, to $8.2 billion and $1.9  billion, respectively, while fruit imports from Guatemala fell by 2% to $1.9 billion. By contrast, Peru registered a 17% increase in shipments to the US ($1.7 billion), and imports from Costa Rica climbed 2% to $1.1 billion.

 

Posted on

NASA to contribute to agricultural research

This image taken by the Landsat satellite shows an agricultural region in Idaho on August 14, 2000, captured in the visible spectrum
© NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

 

The US Department of Agriculture and NASA have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening their longstanding partnership on space-based assets benefitting life on Earth. The agreement brings together NASA’s experience with technology development and space-borne Earth science measurements and USDA’s scientific experience and knowledge of agricultural production, resource conservation, food security and safety, and forests and working lands.

USDA and NASA will explore research gaps of importance to the agricultural community that could be addressed through innovative Earth observation systems and technologies developed over the next decade. The collaboration also will address recommendations made in the 2017 National Academies’ Earth Science Decadal Survey.

“As we’ve seen over the past 100 years, increasing innovation in agriculture is limitless,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “This partnership between USDA and NASA will bring together the best research, science, and technology we have to offer to help produce more food to feed the growing world. We are continuing an already great collaborative effort to utilize space-based technologies across sectors and into agriculture.”

“When we combine research on the International Space Station with the amazing capabilities that Earth observation provides, I believe that NASA, in partnership with USDA, could transform farming and bolster agricultural production in ways we can’t even imagine today,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Microgravity research can unlock secrets in a wide variety of fields, and I’m particularly excited about our agency’s potential impact on next-generation agricultural techniques.”

The agreement also will leverage USDA’s connections with the agricultural community and the global marketplace.

The partnership outlined in the agreement will benefit a variety of Earth and space-based goals, including activities in support of NASA’s Artremis programme, which will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon and establish sustainable exploration with our commercial and international partners. Plant-related research on the International Space Station, and other space or ground platforms, may lead to creative new ways to improve American and global agriculture, protect the environment, and contribute to better human health. 

Posted on

Washington Apple Week encompasses nineteen countries

Washington Apple Week encompasses nineteen countries © USApple
© USApple

 

The Washington Apple Commission has announced that this week, from November 28 to December 6, is the second annual celebration of Washington Apple Week. The global event spans nineteen countries and feature activities to connect consumers with the source of their food through education as well as build excitement for the arrival of the new season Washington apples. 

Featuring the exclusive worldwide campaign “From Our Trees to Your Table”, the week-long celebration focuses on educating consumers on the diversity of varieties available, the process of growing the world-class quality apples, and the health benefits of regularly eating Washington apples.

Layering eye-catching in-store displays, the Commission will focus on creating an interactive experience through digital media. Social media, online contests, influencer partnerships, educational videos, livestream cooking demos and more will bring the goodness of Washington apples directly to international consumers at home. Viewers can join in on the fun through the Washington Apples social media platforms and following the #WashingtonAppleWeek hashtag.

“This is an exciting opportunity to connect with customers and unify apple lovers across different oceans, borders and continents. The ability to engage with consumers with an amplified digital approach helps bridge the gap during a challenging time, and it opens new doors to provide content that will add value to our customer’s daily lives,” said Rebecca Lyons, international marketing director.

The 1,260 apple growers in the state produce eight core varieties: Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Cripps Pink, Golden Delicious and Cosmic Crisp®. Washington state is the leading producer of fresh apples in the U.S., growing 65% of the nation’s apples annually and exporting to over 60 international markets.