No more smashed avo: Australian shoppers  turn to cheaper, ‘long-lasting’ fruit and veg  options during lockdown, NIELSEN report

Posted by Media Release Agency on 22nd April 2020

​In the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Australian consumers have ensured their ​pantries are packed with food essentials.​ But new Nielsen Homescan research has revealed that consumers are stocking a healthy store of produce items, both shelf- and fridge-friendly, as well.  

In the four weeks ending March 22, overall growth of the fresh produce category reached a two-year high, up 5.1% in volume sold compared to the same period a year ago. This marks a break in trend from recent years where fresh produce had experienced generally flat sales growth. During this same period in March, many retailers withdrew promotional activity in an attempt to manage demand. Meanwhile, consumers contended with higher average prices due to supply chain challenges lingering from the bushfires and drought. With these factors considered, the increase in fresh produce sales during March is well above expectations.  

Sales of fresh produce were also heavily supported by ​online shopping.​ Dollar sales for fresh produce sold online increased 37.2% in the four weeks to Feb. 22, compared to a year ago. But due to mass demand, supply chains were pushed to the limit. As a result, the e-commerce sales trend for fresh produce fell to 9.5% in the following four week period ending March 22. 

Melanie Norris, Nielsen Australia’s Fresh Industry Lead, said: “With more time at home and less desire to frequent stores due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure, Australians are shopping for produce differently than we’ve seen in the past. ​Similar to consumers in North America,​ the latest data highlights that Australians are stocking up on fruits and vegetables that have a longer shelf-life,  and in some cases, seeking produce options that are more cost-effective such as canned or frozen fruit and vegetables. In the month of March, both shelf-stable and frozen produce has seen  unprecedented sales growth.” 

A deep-dive into the fresh vegetable category shows that the primary growth drivers were all vegetables that are known to last in consumers’ pantries and fridge drawers. In fact, while volume sales for fresh vegetables increased by 15.0% in the latest four weeks, it was potatoes, carrots, and onions – all vegetables that store well – which contributed the most sales growth to the category. 

In a time where health is top-of-mind and home snacking is at an all-time high, it was surprising to see fresh fruit volume sales decline in the month of March. Bananas, apples and stone fruit.

recorded volume growth; while traditional lunchbox and snackable favorites including berries,  avocados, and citrus all saw declines compared to a year ago. However, with the government’s recent announcement that Australian schools could recommence in the next few weeks, we may see sales for some of these fruit categories start to recover. 

Looking across the store, it is clear that Australians are gravitating toward products that can last weeks, not days. In the four weeks to March 22, frozen fruit recorded an all-time high for volume growth (+39.3%), while canned fruit sales also jumped by 73.9%. Given that the average price of fruit was 7.9% higher than the same time year ago, budgetary constraints may have influenced stronger frozen and canned fruit sales as well. The same pattern could be seen for vegetables with frozen sales up by 59.8%, while canned vegetables increased by 118.5%.    Norris said: “Over the next few months, retailers and brands could consider finding new ways to inspire consumers to use the fruit and vegetable options they are purchasing. Recipe ideas using longer-lasting vegetables with stockpiled pantry items, or creative ways to use frozen and canned produce could help to drive consumption. Working with smaller outlets to provide home delivery  options may also assist in facilitating produce purchases for those who are homebound and unable  to make it out to their local store.” 

Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global measurement and data analytics company that provides the most complete and trusted view available of consumers and markets worldwide. Their approach marries proprietary Nielsen data with other data sources to help clients around the world understand what’s happening now, what’s happening next, and how to best act on this knowledge.  For more than 90 years Nielsen has provided data and analytics based on scientific rigor and innovation, continually developing new ways to answer the most important questions facing the media, advertising, retail, and fast-moving consumer goods industries. An S&P 500 company, Nielsen  has operations in over 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit​ ​​.