Blueberries, raspberries, watermelons and cucumbers saw double-digit volume growth in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the latest United Fresh Produce Association’s FreshFacts on Retail report.

Watermelons saw the largest increases, up 25.1% to 197 million pounds and up 22.9% to $185 million.

Volume sales of blueberries grew 20.2% to 101 million units and 14.3% to $388 million. Raspberries saw volume sales increase 17.7% to 75 million units and 8.3% to $217 million.

Cucumbers led the vegetable category in the fourth quarter in volume growth, with a 10% jump to 189 million pounds driving a modest dollar sales increase of 1.5% to $239 million.

In the fruit category, apples, grapes and mandarins saw volume sales and dollar sales fall, along with lower average prices per pound. Potatoes, lettuce, carrots and mushrooms were in the same boat on the vegetable side.

Pre-packaged salads continued to see growth, with volume sales up 8.3% to 403 million pounds and dollar sales growth up 8.7% to $1.15 billion. Salad kits now make up 28.6% of the pre-packaged salad category, up 4.2%.

Value-added fruits and vegetables contributed 6.7% of dollar sales in the quarter, according to the report.

Celery was far and away the top growth item in the value-added category, with volume sales up 41%. Broccoli, pineapple and watermelon also saw fresh-cut growth.

Organic produce sales for the fourth quarter totaled $1.4 billion. Top produce items in the category are pre-packaged salads, apples, carrots, herbs and spices, and bananas. All except carrots saw volume growth for the quarter, but prices for most of the top 10 fell.

The report also looked at 2019 as a whole.

“Overall fresh fruit sales remain flat at $6.6 billion, with dollars up 0.2% and volume up 0.4%,” United Fresh wrote. “Half of the categories show negative dollar sales rates in the past year, led by grapes, mandarins and oranges. However, there were pockets of growth as avocados, blueberries, watermelons and raspberries have likely played to the healthy eating intentions of consumers.

“While prices declined for majority of fruit categories, avocados prices shot up likely due to supply constraints,” United wrote.

The organization also recapped vegetable performance for the year.

“Vegetables sales in 2019 reached nearly $7.5 billion, which is 1.7% more than the past year, representing $122.7 million in absolute growth,” United Fresh wrote in the report. “For the most part, the absolute dollar growth was driven by pre-packaged salads, which also held the distinction of being the top-selling category.

“Potatoes and lettuce see inflationary growth as dollars grow in the absence of volume growth,” United wrote. “Tomatoes and bell peppers’ price drops resulted in dollar sales declines despite volume growth.”


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