Supermarket Perimeter - July 2020 - 41

Produce

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC DID NOT affect supplies of organic fruits
and vegetables shipped in the United States.
In fact, volumes were strong, and demand stronger than ever -
thanks in part to the virus, but also to long-existing conditions that have
steadily lifted demand for organic product.
Between March 1 and April 18, organic apple sales climbed 18% over
the previous year, according to Nielsen data cited by David Roby, brand
manager for Yakima, Wash.-based Domex Superfresh Growers.
The coronavirus played some role in that, Roby said, but many other
factors were at play, too.
"Consumer sentiment was already shifting toward organic apples as
they became more accessible and affordable," Roby said. "There were a
lot of other trends that have boosted organic apples and all produce in
general, including the increase in home meal preparation and focus on
a healthier diet. These habits could stick with today's kids for a lifetime,
which would be good for health in the United States, and good for
farmers."
Organic apples lend themselves well to bags (consumers want them
for perceived safety), value, convenience (grab-and-go/home delivery
ease) and kid-friendliness, Roby added.
That's in addition to the perceived health benefits of organic produce
in general.
"Also, in Washington State we had a great supply of organic apples
this season, so we were fortunate to be able to support retailers
with quick-delivery to accommodate the 'pantry-filling period,' and
continued promotion of them."

Beyond COVID-19
The coronavirus has "not really changed anything" about Watsonville,
Calif.-based Well-Pict Inc.'s organic program, said Jim Grabowski, the
company's marketing director.
Typical seasonality is what's having more of an impact.
"For most of the time, it's business as usual," Grabowski said.
"Demand for organic strawberries at this time is somewhat like a
seesaw. It goes up, levels off, goes down - fairly unpredictable."
Part of the problem, he said, is that both consumers and retailers
don't really know what the new normal is going to be yet.
Availability of organic strawberries was strong heading into summer,
Grabowski said - sometimes too strong for the demand. Ironically,
that's due in part to strong demand in the past that led to bigger
plantings.
"Growers saw the increase in demand for organics in past years
and adjusted and increased growing acreage, so sometimes in these
unpredictable times, supplies tend to outweigh even any increased
demand," Grabowski said.
That said, organic demand was increasing at a slow but steady rate
prior to the pandemic, he added, so there's no real reason for organics
to not to continue to grow, pandemic or not. People were looking for
that perceived healthier option prior to the pandemic which would
account for the growing demand.
But with the economy such a question mark, consumers could be
less likely to choose organic, Grabowski conceded.
"The problem arises when people start having a harder time paying
for the increased cost of the organic option. At this time, it is hard to
supermarketperimeter.com

Brand power
Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppy's organic
blueberries from California, Washington and
British Columbia looked "exceptional" heading into
summer, said Karin Gardner, executive director of
marketing, as does its strawberry program, which
will extend until the end of 2020. Both berries are
packed under the venerable Ocean Spray label,
which, according to an independent survey, was
labeled a "familiar brand" by 90% of consumers.
In another third-party survey, nearly 70% of
participants were well-aware of the Ocean Spray
berry brand, and the majority of purchasers held an
extremely high or favorable opinion of it.
Oppy's organic greenhouse veg category,
meanwhile, also is looking forward to a strong
summer. Oppy is shipping OriginO brand
organic peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers from
British Columbia and also is bringing in organic
peppers for the second season from Mexican
greenhouses.
Another strong brand marketed by Oppy is
SunGold kiwifruit, which got off to a recordbreaking start, thanks to an earlier start to the
season and equally early demand across retailers,
Gardner said.
"The level of excitement for organic SunGold is
a testament both to the quality of the fruit and its
potential as a persistent driving force behind the
category's growth as a whole," she said.
Organic green kiwifruit volumes, however, will
remain limited until early July due to growing
conditions.

JULY 2020 - 41


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