People have a propensity for pineapples.

According to The Packer’s 2016 Fresh Trends, 39% of U.S. consumers purchased pineapple in the past 12 months.

Chicago-based IRI Worldwide reports that for the 52 weeks ending June 12, dollar sales for pineapples reached $797 million – an increase of 2.9% over the previous 52-week period.

Per capita consumption reached 6.74 pounds in 2013, compared with 4.4 pounds in 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Costa Rica is the No.1 supplier of the popular MD2 pineapples to the U.S. market, says Jose Rossignoli, tropical category general manager for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Robinson Fresh.Growers in that country export about 200 million cases a year with shipments divided almost 50/50 between the U.S and Europe, he says.

“It is without a doubt the preferred country of origin for MD2 pineapples, with a premium price paid versus other countries,” he says.

Weather-related issues in recent years have slowed growth in Costa Rica, giving other countries such as Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador an opportunity to gain market share. Internal demand for juice and individual quick-frozen product that sells for near export prices also is putting pressure on Costa Rican exports, he says, giving growers a less risky alternative.

All this has stabilized the market and kept prices relatively high, he says.

New York-based Nielsen Perishables Group says the average retail price per pineapple for the 52 weeks ending May 28 was $2.60, an increase of 0.3% over the previous 52 weeks.

Tons of imports

In 2015, the U.S. imported 1.17 million tons of pineapples, says Gina Garven, director of business analysis for Robinson Fresh, citing USDA figures. Costa Rica supplied about 84% of that volume.

Almost 600,000 acres of pineapples were harvested in the Western Hemisphere in 2013, with Brazil and Costa Rica ranking first and second in total acres at 65,500 and 43,000 acres, respectively, she says, citing numbers from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Brazil produced 2.5 million tons of pineapples, and Costa Rica produced 2.7 million tons in 2013. Chocolate bunnies and hard-boiled eggs aren’t the only Easter favorites. IRI data shows that Easter is the No. 1 retail sales week for pineapples, Garven says.

Convenience counts

Convenience is top of mind for many consumers when choosing pineapple.

“There is a clear growing trend for added-value products, like fresh-cut versus fresh, both showing growth, but fresh is at a much slower pace,” Rossignoli says.

About half the pineapples purchased in the U.S. are for value-added product, Garven says, citing IRI data.

Retail value-added pineapples contributed $782 million in 2015, she says, with a 9% four-year compound annual growth rate.

“Cut and chunk segments are growing, while cored and sliced declined,” she says.

Interest in organic pineapple also is on the rise, according to Fresh Trends. Nine percent of consumers said they always purchased organic pineapple in the past year, while only 6% said so in 2013. Conventional pineapple was purchased by 66% of those surveyed, and 21% purchased both conventional and organic.

At the same time, 29% of buyers said they bought organic at least some of the time — up 7% from last year. Nielsen Perishables Group says organic pineapple accounted for 1.5% of all pineapple sales during for the 52 weeks ending May 28.

Hispanic preference

Hispanics have a greater preference for pineapples than others.

“Consumption of pineapples is highly over-indexed for Hispanics,” Garven says. “Per capita, they consume 45% more than the average American,” she says. “Every other racial group under-consumes.”

Kids, too, seem to have a fondness for pineapple. Fresh Trends says consumers with kids living at home were more likely to buy pineapples — 44% versus 36% for households without kids.

“The likelihood of a purchase increased according to the number of children at home,” Fresh Trends says. “In fact, consumers with three or more kids comprised the group most likely to buy the tropical fruit overall.”

Age is a relatively small factor in pineapple consumption, Garven says. There’s a minor over-consumption index for people over the age of 65. Consumption of pineapples, like all produce, tends to over-index in households with higher income (greater than $75,000), she says. These consumers purchase 26% more than the average individual. 

The West is the top spot for pineapples, says Fresh Trends. In the West, 46% of consumers were likely to buy pineapples compared with 43% in the Midwest, 35% in the South and 38% in the Northeast.

Del Monte Golds At Miami-based Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Dionysios Christou, vice president of marketing, estimates that 5.3 billion Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet pineapples were sold in North America in 2015.

“After our introduction of the Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet pineapple, per capita consumption of fresh pineapples has grown steadily,” he says, with the exception of a 14% volume reduction in 2014. “We fully expect consumption to continue to rise,” he says.

He added that the company has introduced a wide range of fresh-cut pineapple products, including cylinders, chunks, rings and spears, and is “continuously developing innovative packaging and expanding the product line to meet changing consumer and retailer demands.”

Rossignoli of Robinson Fresh says one important tip to retailers is to seek guidance from category specialists on things like times of year to promote, make spec decisions and rotate inventory rotation “in order to keep their returns as healthy as possible year-round.”

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