Fresh produce department managers in 2009 endured a 2.5% decline in dollar sales compared with 2008 as consumers looked for value in their fresh food choices, while the market share of private label fresh produce increased slightly.

Fresh produce sales were off 2.5% in dollars while volume sold was up 2% in 2009, the West Dundee, Ill.-based Perishables Group reported in mid-April in a review of 2,000 retail performance for perishable categories in the firm’s Fresh Perspective newsletter.

Fresh produce sector sales performance fell short of other perishables departments. Meat sales were reported up 0.1% in dollars and 2.9% in volume. Seafood sales were up 5.4% in dollars and 5% in volume, while bakery sales were up 1% in dollars and down 0.6% in volume.
      
Value will remain important to consumers in 2010, because they’ve become used to buying items on sale, said Bruce Axtman, president and chief executive officer of the company, in the report.

Private label products have been growing in all fresh departments, according to the report. However, the market share for private label items in the fresh produce department is the lowest of any perishable department.

The private label share of the produce department was rated at 9.6%, up from 8.3% in 2008.

Statistics showed that private label growth increased an average of 1% in all fresh departments.

The bakery department had the largest market share for private label goods, at 27.5% in 2009, compared with 26.5% in 2008.

The report noted that sales organic products declined in deli, seafood and bakery departments.

The Perishables Group observed growth in the prepared fresh vegetable category, including beans, broccoli and cooking greens. Sales also rose for herbs as well as healthy snack fruits such as prepared pineapple and grapefruit, the report said.