It’s no secret that New Year’s resolutions often equal commitments to healthier eating, so we asked 10 produce retail pros which vegetables and fruits they expect to see big gains in the first weeks of 2020.
“You should see an increase across the fresh department, but some standouts are obviously salads – with an emphasis on organic salads – and any items that would be viewed as salad ingredients,” said Vic Savanello, regional vice president for produce and floral with Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash. “Items like cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots will all see a spike as store guests look to create new habits and start eating healthier.”
Data from Nielsen indicate the same; the first week of January this year, pre-packaged salad sales grew 19.6% to $93 million. The following week, sales jumped another 10% to $103 million.
Dennis Payne, senior produce category manager for Greensboro, N.C.-based The Fresh Market, also expects salads and salad additions to see growth, and he noted The Fresh Market plans to launch 17 new private-label bagged salads this month.
Retailers also expect January baskets to fill up with items that can be used for juicing.
“Wet rack sales are solid – all leafy items, like kales, chards and choys, grow in popularity for the nutritional value,” said Patrick Mills, director of produce and floral for Niwot, Colo.-based Lucky’s Market. “Root vegetables add to the juicing side to go hand in hand with diets for New Year’s resolutions.”
Jeff Cady, director of produce and floral for Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Friendly Markets, noted that plant-based items continue to grow in popularity year after year.
Kevin Byers, produce merchandiser for Seattle-based PCC Community Markets, said citrus items like grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes see a jump as people shop to make their New Year’s Day drinks.
Price Mabry, produce sales manager for the Gulf Coast division of Associated Wholesale Grocers, noted that in his region, along with salads and juicing items, cabbage will be an item experiencing big growth.
“Folks down here will consume an enormous amount of cabbage for the New Year’s in the hope of a rich and prosperous year,” Mabry said. “We will see cabbage sales triple during the week leading to New Year’s and after.”
Louis Scagnelli, director of produce and floral for Alpha 1 Marketing, an affiliate of White Plains, N.Y.-based Krasdale Foods, said that while salads will see the most growth, grape sales spike in January as well.
“Avocados, grapefruits, fresh carrots and broccoli are also big movers as people begin their healthy eating trends for the New Year,” Scagnelli said.
Scott Bennett, produce sales and merchandising manager for Itasca, Ill.-based Jewel-Osco, summed up the key attribute of most of the items prone to spikes in early January.
“Anything that doesn’t have sugar … just does very well,” Bennett said.
The first two weeks of the month are the big ones for capitalizing on New Year’s resolutions, but for some items the momentum continues.
“Although some New Year’s resolutions don’t make it to see February, the one single category that continues to thrive beyond then is value-added bagged salad,” said Michael Schutt, produce merchant for West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s. “Even though we generally get an influx of business after the holidays across the entire produce department as people get more ‘fresh’ back into their diets from the indulgence of the season, the salad segment sees the most benefit.”
Brian Dey, senior merchandiser and natural stores coordinator for Ephrata, Penn.-based Four Seasons Produce, described the early weeks of January as the perfect time to introduce shoppers to less familiar items, particular in the bulk greens category, where many people tend to stick with what they know.
“It’s a great time to capitalize on that extra traffic in your store, not just for extra displays or ads or whatever you want to do, but introducing customers to something new from a greens standpoint,” Dey said.
“If you don’t carry dandelion, if you don’t carry lacinato kale versus a green kale, these are the types of times that it’s great to introduce new items into these cases … Expand your root sections," Dey said. “It bodes extremely well for repeat purchases down the road. And quite honestly it opens up consumers to something else they might not have tried, so even if they get away from juicing … the dandelion they were using for juicing they might use for salad now.”