The United Fresh Produce Association has launched a new quarterly research report Fresh Facts on Retail to provide industry members reliable benchmarks and retail sales trends for the top 10 fruits and vegetable commodities, value-added and convenience produce items, emerging market opportunities such fresh meals and snacks sold in delis, organic produce, and a quarterly in-depth analysis of a specific category of interest.

Fresh Facts on Retail is produced in partnership with the Perishables Group, which tracks and provides analysis of all retails sales data, and with program sponsor Del Monte Fresh Produce.

The first issue of Fresh Facts on Retail reports on sales during the 2nd quarter of 2008. Subsequent issues will be published soon after the close of each calendar quarter after sales data is compiled and analyzed.

"Fresh Facts on Retail will provide important data on sales trends that are just not generally available without contracting directly with a research firm,” said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel. “United Fresh is committed to providing our members a growing array of valuable tools to enhance their business management, and we appreciate Del Monte’s support for this new initiative.”

United’s new Retail-Foodservice Board will provide guidance in shaping the report to make it most valuable to members.

“We believe this research will help companies better understand retail trends across the industry, providing a benchmarking tool for retailers, commodity groups and individual companies to measure their own experience against national trends,” said Reggie Griffin, The Kroger Company, Board member and Chairman of the Retail-Foodservice Board. “Companies can also use Fresh Facts on Retail to get a heads-up on new market opportunities in value-added produce and emerging categories such as fresh meals,” he said.

Highlights from this quarter's report include:

– Overall produce dollar sales per store grew 3.2% from the previous year, but volume was actually down 4.1%.

– Berries, bananas and apples led fruit sales in dollars per store, with packaged salads and tomatoes leading vegetable sales.

– With the total value-added fruit category growing 1.4%, fresh-cut fruit was the most popular in this category, showing 0.8% growth. While total value-added vegetables fell 1.7%, fresh side dishes were the most popular in the value-added vegetable category, increasing 1.3%.

– Entrée salads and prepared vegetables set the sales pace in the deli department, followed by fruit salad and fruit platters.

– Vegetables platters in the deli increased 10.5% in dollar sales.

– Organic fruits grew by 25.7% in dollar sales and 16.2% in volume, while organic vegetables grew by 22.2% in dollar sales and 14.3% in volume.

In addition to the sales and trend data for fresh produce, this quarter’s Category Spotlight focused on fresh tomatoes and the impact of the FDA’s salmonella warning during the period. During the second quarter, retailers saw tomato sales decline 4.6% in dollars, but 16.6% in volume compared with a year earlier. However, the full impact of the FDA’s consumer warning was not felt until late in the quarter and continued into the 3rd quarter of the year. An update on tomato sales in Q3 will be available in the next report.

Fresh Facts on Retail will be made available free to all members of United Fresh, and is available for a nominal $50 fee to non-members. The report can be downloaded directly from United’s website – www.unitedfresh.org – in the Programs & Services section.