Lettuce sales in the second quarter of 2018 were down $69 million from the second quarter in 2017, a consequence of the deadly spring E. coli outbreak tied to romaine.

The dollar declines in the lettuce category accounted for nearly three-fourths of dollar declines for vegetables overall, according to the new FreshFacts on Retail report from the United Fresh Produce Association. Dollar sales in the second quarter were $400 million, a 15% drop. Volume in the second quarter was 249 million pounds, a 6.5% drop.

Packaged salads escaped the effect of consumer concern, however, with sales in that category actually growing slightly.

Other vegetables with notable volume declines include tomatoes (6.2%), potatoes (7.7%) and onions (5.1%), per the report. Those slides were attributed to higher prices.

Higher prices — for supply and other reasons — affected several big fruit categories as well, with volume declines in apples (6.3%), bananas (5.3%) and grapes (9.5%) among others.

United Fresh and Nielsen, which works with the association to assemble the report, mentioned produce sales have been sliding for nearly a year now.

“For now the third consecutive quarter, the produce department experienced a decrease in average dollars sold,” the organizations said in the report. “Riding the wave of health and wellness may have finally run its course as shoppers now have more ‘clean’ options available across the store. Understanding generational, cultural and economic differences plays a vital role in store success. Exposure to new products and new uses has changed the way consumers engage with food, and for those retailers and produce companies who can adapt to meet these changing needs can hopefully turn things around for the produce department.”

The full report is available on the United Fresh website.


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