Three Year Apple Category Growth Run Continued During Holidays

Supermarket sales data released by Nielsen Perishables Group reveals continued strong apple category growth over the December holiday period. A three year analysis of apple performance by CMI shows retail volume continues to grow, led by newer varieties. During the month of December, apple category volume at retail increased by 3.2% over 2012 but is up 9.5% over 2011, say CMI officials.

“It’s very encouraging to see near double digit volume growth in December compared to the same period just two years ago,” says Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing for CMI. “The numbers validate that consumers are buying more apples overall while embracing new varieties.”

The Nielsen Perishables Group data for December 2013 shows the Fuji, Cripps Pink/Pink Lady, Ambrosia and Granny Smith varieties all increased in volume by more than 20%. Honeycrisp and Rome volume in December 2013 vs. 2011 increased by 18.3% and 17.4% respectively.

“The December data really reveals how consumer preferences are shifting while growing the category in the process,” says Lutz. “Over two years, Honeycrisp volume is up by over 17% despite an average retail price of $2.40 per pound. Ambrosia volume is up by 24% with an average retail price that is 20% higher than the average for the total apple category. Volume growth at these levels combined with higher retail prices is only sustainable if consumers like what they’re buying and come back for more.”

Lutz said that despite the strong category volume gains, the report shows it’s not all good news. Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Jonagold and Cameo all lost significant market share over the two year holiday period. Lutz noted that Cameo volume dropped by 43% while Braeburn lost 28%.

The analysis also indicates how supermarket distribution practices are impacting store-level volume. Impressions per store per week (a measure of the unique items in each store each week) increased by 8.1% for the category as more apple varieties and items were stocked on retail shelves.

“It’s pretty clear that over the past two years, retailers encouraged consumers to discover these new varieties by putting more items on more shelves more often, said Lutz. “Ambrosia impressions jumped by 48% while Cripps Pink/Pink Lady and Honeycrisp both increased by over 16%.”

Not all apple varieties secured incremental retail impressions. McIntosh, Braeburn, Romes and Cameo varieties all suffered declines in retail impressions. “This clearly shows that there is a finite amount of space available for apples,” says Lutz. “Romes volume was bailed out by a substantial drop in an already low retail price, but those other varieties were hit hard by the loss of retail shelf support.”

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