New York, NY–New reports fueled byNielsen data show how COVID-19 is impacting consumer purchases, with organic produce and private label showing gains.
Organic Produce
Total organic fresh produce sales continued on an upward trend in April, increasing 18% from 2019, according to the April 2020 Organic Produce Performance Reportreleased by theOrganic Produce Network(OPN) and Category Partners. The report, which utilized Nielsen retail scan data covering total food sales and outlets in the U.S. over the month of April, also revealed that organic is outpacing conventional produce products in both dollars and volume.

Among the key findings:
  • April 2020 organic fresh produce sales topped $542.4 million. According to a press release from ONP, this year's April sales were elevated across the entire supermarket as restaurant closures led consumers to retail stores for the majority of their food purchases.
  • Organic sales in April 2020 increased by 18.4% in dollars, and 20.5% in volume from April 2019.
  • The top 10 categories for organic volume drove 72% of total organic sales; packaged salads, carrots, apples and bananas (aka "the big four") accounted for 52% of the total organic retail volume.
  • Conventional produce dollars increased by 16.3% and volume increased 15.4%.

    Courtesy of the Organic Produce Network (OPN)
  • These increases follow growth reported in March 2020, when organic fresh produce sales were up 22% from the previous year. The report also notes that, outside of sporadic shortages, the widespread out-of-stock conditions seen in produce departments throughout the country in March were less of a factor in April as retailers adjusted to consumers' higher purchase rates.
“Organic produce growth continued at a strong pace during the month of April,” said Matt Seeley, CEO of the OPN. "Sales and volume growth rates in organic produce continued to be larger than conventional, generating strong year over year dollar increases. Despite economic challenges created by the COVID-19 quarantine, consumers show no indications of shifting purchases away from organic fruit and vegetables.”
Related: Nielsen Data Reveals Fresh Produce Sales Gains Organic Market Grows Worldwide During COVID-19 Crisis
Private Label/Store Brands
As shoppers stocked up on products during the first stages of the COVID-19 crisis, store brands posted double-digit sales increases across U.S. supermarkets, discounters, and drug stores, according to thePrivate Label Manufacturers Association(PLMA), which uses data from Nielsen.

Among the key findings:
  • Dollar sales of private label products across all retail outlets compared to the prior year increased nearly 15% during the first quarter, up $4.9 billion. Unit volume increased nearly 13%, for a gain of appoximately 1.5 billion products sold.
  • Total dollar sales of store brands in the first quarter were $38.4 billion and units were 13.2 billion.
  • During the quarter, private label gained roughly one third more in both dollar and unit sales than national brands. In all U.S. retail outlets, store brands grew 14.6% in dollar volume and 12.8% in unit volume; national brands saw gains of 11.5% in dollars and 9.2% in units.
  • PLMA noted in a press release that private label manufacturers are making significant operational changes to cope with rising demand. Facorites are operating 24/7 in certain categories, such as paper goods, OTC medicines, and hand sanitizers. Some companies are creating fair share allocations for high-demand products, PLMA said, and many companies are simplifying SKU offerings, extending lead times to build inventories, and retooling to be more efficient for growing e-commerce business.
  • The strongest gains for store brands occurred in mass (mass merchandisers, club, and dollar stores). Store brands gained 16.6% in dollar sales and 16.5% in unit sales compared to the same quarter in 2019. Gains for the 2020 quarter surpassed those of national brands, with market share for store brands increasing by 1.2 points in dollars to 21.7%, and 1.5 points in units to 25.8%.
  • Store brands also increased in supermarkets, up 12.7% in dollar volume and 9.7% in unit volume. Store brands market shares were unchanged for the quarter, at 18% of dollars and 22.3% of units.
"There's no doubt that shopper behavior was highly influenced by consumer fears," PLMA President Brian Sharoff said in the release. "Nonetheless the statistics point to greater acceptance of retailer brands as the coronavirus crisis evolves."
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