Consumer purchases have moved apples ahead of bananas into third place in total retail sales, trailing only berries and packaged salad in the 52 weeks ending May 29, according to Steve Lutz, executive vice president of Nielsen Perishables Group. Lutz said apples showed the biggest retail sales growth of any top major produce category, rising about 16 percent over the previous year.
Among the gains by various apple varieties with higher retail saies in the past year included pink lady, fuji, pinata, Honeycrisp, red delicious, ambrosia, Jazz, granny smith and gala, in addition to niche varieties such as Lady Alice, Envy, Opal and Junami.
The best apple consumers are willing to spend on healthy foods and fresh meals, and convenience and price are not a key purchase driver, Lutz said. With the income to afford choice, consumers are looking for unique flavors are driven to the category in pursuit of health, he said.
Despite challenges in the lackluster economy, Lutz said Nielsen data reveals fresh fruits showed an eight percent increase in retail dollar sales over the past year, accompanied by a 4 percent gain in volume. Produce is an increasingly important food choice for a majority of U.S. households.