Consumers’ financial strength is closely related to how well U.S. retailers’ fresh produce departments perform, according to an IRI representative.
Jonna Parker, the company’s Team Lead for Fresh, said that IRI primary shopper research found that if Americas were to receive a second stimulus check from the U.S. government, they would be more likely to spend it on meat and produce than other food and beverages.
“In all, 21% of consumers said they would buy more meat, 20% more produce and 7% would purchase restaurant meals more often,” she said in a joint report by 210 Analytics, IRI and the Produce Marketing Association (PMA). “This shows the fresh produce department performance is closely tied to financial strength.”
Consumers were also asked how the loss of a weekly unemployment benefit of $600 might affect shopping behavior.
“The top answer among current beneficiaries of the benefit was ‘buy less meat’ at 35%, followed by ‘buy fewer fresh fruits and vegetables’ at 29%, ‘buy fewer premium products’ at 24%, ‘switch more purchases to store brands versus national brands’ at 19%, and ‘buy fewer convenient meals to instead cook from scratch’ at 18%,” Parker said.
The joint report noted that fresh produce sales at U.S. retail in the week ended August 9 were up 9.5% year-on-year – putting it below the 12-13% weekly growth seen during July. Year-to-date through August, fresh produce department sales are up 11.1% over the same time period in 2019.
Frozen fruit and vegetables increased the most, up 27.4%. Joe Watson, VP of Membership and Engagement for the PMA, said that economic pressure “tends to have big impacts on grocery shopping”, including channel choice, the type of items and quantity bought, and the importance of price and promotions.
“During the next few weeks and months, it will be important to highlight the great value of fresh produce and home cooking,” he said. “At the same time, consumers appreciate help with recipe ideas and meal planning as that is an increasing area of struggle. We will also keep an eye on back-to-school that will look very different this year, which will once more impact year-over-year trending.”