9 Produce Categories to Watch
With fresh produce introductions trending more evolutionary than revolutionary in the past year, recent IRI
data shows that fruit category sales are ;at and vegetables are up slightly, driven in part by new products.
Here’s a snapshot of the most watch-worthy produce categories, courtesy of IRI. By Jennifer Strailey
vegetable went from
soggy to sensational
thanks to chefs reinventing
old-school dishes and suppliers creating
value-added o;erings that made at-home
preparation deliciously simple. “Versatility
is definitely part of the Brussels sprouts
movement,” says Jonna Parker, principal
with Chicago-based IRI’s Fresh Center
of Excellence. Brussels sprouts were up
13.1% in dollar sales percent change for
the 52 weeks ending June 17, 2018, and
up 50% vs. three years ago.
“Bagged salads is a
mature category,” says
Parker. The excitement
in leafy greens is in
single-serve and grab-and-go, she says, which
are both intensifying on the
sales front, as is Boston butter lettuce.
“It’s new, so it’s exciting,” she says.
Dollar sales of Boston butter lettuce
continue to trend upward. This year,
the lettuce grew 12.9%.
“Honey Crisp was what
sparked the revival of
the apple variety,” says
Parker. “However, since
then, all of this new variety
influx isn’t growing category consumption
as much as it could have.” The apple
category was down this past year.
“There’s still an opportunity to drive
consumption of apples,” Parker says.
“Perhaps some good old-fashioned
marketing is needed to let customers
know about new varieties, and why they
should put them in their cart.”
has taken o; like
proliferation of cauliflower
is an important parable for the fresh
produce industry,” says Parker. “It’s not
just competing with the adjacent fresh
vegetable. Frozen has become a fierce
competitor. It’s a renaissance category
that’s hitting high marks for steamable
packaging and product innovation.” Fresh
cauliflower alone presents a more modest
story of growth. Dollar sales percent
change vs. a year ago is 6.3%.
While the entire
category is up a
modest 2.4%, brown
and more exotic
mushrooms are gaining
mushrooms now represent 23.9% of the
category, and shiitake mushrooms, while
a small percentage of overall sales,
continue to climb (up 17% this year).
“Consumers want to try something they’ve
never had before, and shiitake mushrooms
are a natural next step,” Parker says.
While avocados were up
8.8% in dollar sales this
year, the increase was
less robust than in the
previous two years. (Three
years ago, avocados were up 33.3%.)
“Avocados are still supply and price.
When the price is too high, there’s a
dip in sales,” Parker says. Avocados
now represent 3.5% dollar share of the
This subcategory has
undoubtedly benefited from
value-added and at-home veggie noodle/
spiralizing trends. While
fresh squash is up 7.9% in
dollar sales this year, zucchini—
one of the most popular vegetables to
spiralize—is up 9.2% and represents
44.1% dollar share of the subcategory.
“It’s a category that did
extremely well earlier in
the decade,” Parker says.
And while dollar percent
change vs. a year ago is up
a slight 0.7%, the berry
category represents the No. 1
category in fruit at 9.5% of the
department’s dollar share. Berries are
an increasingly mature category that
may benefit from new product
introductions and innovation.
Thanks to the
behind brands such
as Halos and Cuties,
tangerines have been reinvented as
the go-to fruit for kids. “Tangerines
continue to be a great study in how
produce can be marketed and branded
like a CPG brand,” says Parker.
Tangerines were up 9.2% this year and
are now just behind avocados, at 2.8%
dollar share of produce.