Bulk and packaged apples will always appeal to those consumers who find them convenient, but, in the current market, with COVID-19 a resurgent concern, they demand careful consideration from retailers who are coping with the pandemic.
“There is still a need for both bulk and bagged items on the store shelves,” Chuck Sinks, president, sales and marketing at Sage Fruit Co., Yakima, WA, says. “While pre-bagged apples provide a sense of safety for those who are concerned with illness, and grab-and-go convenience, there are still some consumers who prefer to select their own produce items. For some, three-pound apples are more than they have space for or more than they can eat in a week, so they prefer to only grab a few at a time. Retailers need to offer both bags and bulk.”
Says Don Roper, vice president, Honey Bear Marketing, Brewster, WA., “This is really retailer specific, but, in general we have seen a significant increase in bags and pouch business over the past two years, the fastest up-tick of packaged SKUs in any time period over the last 15 years.”
Packaged apples are now integral to sales.
“Packaging has been in solid demand since the onset of the pandemic, and shifted to about 40% of apples being sold in packages and 60% sold bulk as a national average,” Brianna Shales, marketing director for Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, WA, says. “Convenience is here to stay, yet bulk is still a driver that needs good display space and regular promotion. With more shoppers purchasing grocery online, we also need to make sure those promotions cross over into the online space and apples are given the attention that they command in the physical department, in the online space.”
Given the range of concerns consumers have today, choice is likely to remain a big deal.
“Yes! Apples continues to see demand for our bagged and pouch apple selections, but this year we also see greater demand from our large bulk items. So, consumers are buying both, based on our observations,” Kaari Stannard, president and CEO of Yes! Apples, Glenmont, NY, says.
Diane Smith, executive director, Michigan Apple Committee, says, “Tri-wall bin and tote bag displays have by far been the factor for many retailers year over year increases. Easy to grab-and-go is key. “
Tray pack apples can be “aesthetically pleasing,” she says, but retailers should consider sales trends over the last two years. The majority of retailers have seen their prepackaged apple sales increase significantly. Retailers should respond to this accordingly to capitalize on the current consumer shopping behaviors.”
Trish Taylor, marketing manager, Riveridge Produce Marketing, Sparta, MI, says, “As a Michigan marketer, we’ve long been grounded in bagged fruit. It’s about making that presentation more appealing with info on the packaging, but the consumer, or the shopper, has a lot of things on their to-do list, so bags make it easy.”
Of course, health concerns prompted some consumers to favor bagged and packaged produce as COVID-19 became a more prominent challenge. A conspicuous example is Lidl, which moved to add bagged bulk apples in the pandemic due to health concerns but also recognized their convenience advantage. Many consumers today favor the convenience provided by bagged and packaged apples.
“We did notice an upward trend towards bagged apples about two years ago, but that has stabilized a bit as we learned more about how people were doing their food shopping through the pandemic,” Valerie Ramsburg, sales and marketing, Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, PA, says. “We offer a consistent mix of both packs. There is definitely a demand for that ‘grab and go’ convenience item like a bag or pouch, but we have seen a healthy demand for bulk product as well.”
“Grab-n-go will continue to be an all-time favorite way to merchandise apples as consumers continue to want to shop with convenience in mind,” Cynthia Haskins, president and CEO, New York Apple Association, says.