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RETAIL VIEW: FPFC research project yields sales data

During a one-week period in April of this year, Californians purchased 1.6 percent fewer pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables from supermarkets but paid 2.3 percent more dollars for it.

This was just one of the jewels excavated from a newly released market report conducted by the Fresh Produce & Floral Council.

Since the beginning of this year, the FPFC has been working with industry volunteers and Fusion Marketing of Chatsworth, CA, to create the regional report, which provides sales figures and analysis for all items recorded under the vegetable and fruit categories for the entire state of California as well as for four key markets: Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The report has been designed to give the members of the FPFC some value-added California-specific data to help them run their businesses.

The reports breaks down consumption of fruits and vegetables in each market and provides comparative data on fixed-weight product, organic items and non-produce items like dressings, juices and nuts.

For example, in total, and measured in value, about 3.1 percent of the vegetables and 3.4 percent of the fruit bought in the state in the first quarter of this year fell in the organic category.

Los Angeles shoppers lagged behind, with organic fruit and vegetable purchases totaling near the 2.5 percent mark of dollar value. San Francisco led in the fruit category at 4.5 percent, but Sacramento well outpaced other regions in the vegetable sector, with 4.6 percent of the dollars spent on vegetables going to organic items.

FPFC President Carissa Mace said that the market report is one of the more significant new benefits for members to emerge from the planning that followed the council’s member-needs assessment in 2009.

“We saw that what members wanted, especially retailers, was information about the region we serve,” said Ms. Mace. “The FPFC is in a unique position to provide this market data, and we are the only ones providing it.”

The full market report is available only to members of the council, so Ms. Mace and the FPFC board of directors expect it to provide an incentive for companies to join the trade group.

“Prior to the introduction of this product, the primary benefit of FPFC membership has been our networking events,” she said.

The FPFC president and its board of directors believe that this new report will evolve into one of the major benefits of membership in the organization, and it gives an added reason to join the group for firms that are not in a position to take advantage of the networking opportunities afforded by the industry events the FPFC sponsors.

The first report, released Sept. 13, covers a 52-week period ending April 24, 2011. Another report with more recent data will be available in October. A third report will cover the 2011 calendar year. And in 2012, reports will be available based on quarterly data.

Another interesting piece of information in the report is the top produce items sold in California measured in dollar share. On the fruit side of the ledger, bananas and the berry category lead the pack at 15 percent, followed by apples (13 percent), grapes (11 percent) and avocados (9 percent).

These five items represent 63 percent of fruit sales in the typical retail supermarket. The breakdown in each of the four markets studied was very similar, although berry sales spiked in San Francisco at an 18 percent share of dollar volume in that market.

Under the vegetable category, tomatoes (botanically a fruit but sold and classified as a vegetable) accounted for 17 percent of dollar share statewide. The other four items in the top five were onions (11 percent), potatoes (10 percent), lettuce (8 percent) and peppers (7 percent).

These five vegetable categories account for 53 percent of dollar sales in California supermarkets. In each of the four markets, tomatoes were the top vegetable item at very close to the 17 percent mark.

Also in each of the four markets the other four items had similar sales, although in the Northern California markets of San Francisco and Sacramento, the list expanded to the top six items as mushrooms tied for the fifth spot at 7 percent and 6 percent of dollar share, respectively.