Retailers saw a better 2010 than 2009 for fresh produce, according to a recent report.

The Perishables Group report shows produce sales in 2010 totaled $27.3 billion at conventional retail supermarkets (excluding Wal-Mart, club stores and discount operations), up 3.2% compared with the previous year.

In addition, volume of fresh produce sold was up 1.5% versus 2009, and the average retail price for fresh produce was 1.7% higher.

Analysts said produce sales outpaced retail stores’ other departments in 2010.

In the middle of the recession, consumers shopped down and bought fewer organic items, one retailer noted. Both those trends rebounded in 2010 in his stores, he said.

While the report showed most trends moving in the positive direction for retail, one analyst said the high unemployment rate will limit post-recession growth.

Add to that the risk that fuel costs will continue to rise and the recent freezes affecting quality and supplies in Florida, Texas, California, Arizona and Mexico, and 2011 doesn’t look like a boom year yet.

One result of the recession is that people are cooking meals at home more and going to restaurants less, which could be reflected in the growth of onions (up 21% from 2009 to 2010) and peppers (up 11%), considered cooking vegetables.

If some Americans relearned how to prepare fresh produce in the home, there’s hope that behavior will continue when they have more money to spend on food.

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