I think most of us on The Packer staff have all heard from suppliers that retailers are prone to put the same produce items on ad now as they did at the same time last year.  After all, don’t those super busy retailers barely have time for a creative thought and instead cut and paste the food page from the same week a year ago and change the date to make it good to go?  Not so fast my friends.

 The latest USDA Fruit and Vegetable Report shows a fair amount of variation from the same week a year ago. Simply put, the top five most promoted fresh produce items for the week ending Dec. 4 included avocados, bartlett pears, clementines, mangos and tomatoes on-the-vine were the top five overall items.

For the same week last year, the top five heaviest advertised produce items were grapes, avocados, blueberries, clementines, and bartlett pears.    The notable omission of grapes this year is reflected to the much higher f.o.b. market, with crimson seedless from California at close to $24 per carton now compared with about $14  per carton the same time a year ago. Check out the scrolling spreadsheet at the end of the blog post.

From the USDA report: of Dec. 4 this year:

National Fruit and Vegetable Retail Report - Week of Dec. 4 2009
Advertised Prices for Fruits & Vegetables at Major Retail Supermarket Outlets 11/28 to 12/101,

Christmas Promotions Gear Up
Most major retail chains kicked off the Christmas season promotions this week. Wreaths, poinsettias, evergreen boughs and gifts were featured in most retail ads this week. Holiday party trays from produce, deli and the bakery departments along with early Hanukkah ads were also highlighted. Avocados, Bartlett pears, clementines, mangos and tomatoes on-the-vine were the top five overall items. Retail ads overall were up 32% from the previous week.

Vegetable ads were up 17 % from the previous week and fruit ads were up 50%.Cabbage, sweet onions, baby carrots and cucumbers rounded out the vegetable top five. Red delicious apples completed the top five fruit items. The top five fruit items accounted for 59% of all fruit ads this week while the top five vegetable ads accounted for 42% of all vegetable ads. All the major ad items fruit category for the week were lower priced than the same week a year ago with the exception of clementines which were 1% higher. Avocados were down by 19%, mangos and red delicious apples were down 17%, grapefruit 10% and Bartlett pears were down 3%.

Of the vegetable items that were heavily advertised, cabbage and carrots were both higher this week than the same week last year in weighted average price by 2%. Sweet onions and on-the-vine tomatoes were 12% lower in price and cucumbers were 16% lower in price. As used here, major ad items are defined as being regularly surveyed produce items that were featured in 3,000+ stores for the week.

Year ago Dec. 5, 2008 - National Retail Report

Retailers wasted no time switching gears from Thanksgiving to the Christmas season. Items for holiday baking were widely featured in the grocery section, while the floral departments of many stores were dominated by holiday arrangements, wreaths, and of course, poinsettias.

With holiday celebrations around the corner, fruit and vegetable party trays, and decorated cakes and cookies were prominently featured items this week. Overall fresh produce ad activity decreased over 7% with a significant decrease in vegetable ads of 38%. Fruit ad activity increased approximately 18%. The top 5 featured items this week were all fruits: Grapes, avocados, blueberries, clementines, and Bartlett pears. These 5 items accounted for 53% of total fruit ads. Some retailers had 10 for $10 ads promoting apples, pears, grapefruit, avocadoes and mangoes. Grapes, clementines, oranges, blueberries, pears and asparagus were widely seen on the front page of ads this week. The new crop of peaches and nectarines from Chile have made their first appearance in ads in the Southwest and Northwest.