Health

Rani Molla is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist using data visualizations to cover corporations and markets. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal.

Americans are devouring fresh fruit at home and it's becoming a larger share of food budgets. That’s good news for supermarkets, grocers and other food retailers, because fresh produce is the most important driver of customer loyalty in those venues, according to Nielsen. Fruit shopping also requires more trips to the store, and every business loves repeat visitors, of course.

Americans spent $29.6 billion on fresh fruit at retail outlets in the year that ended on Nov. 1, according to IRI/FreshLook, a market research firm. That’s up 14 percent since 2012.

Apple Pie
Fresh fruit is a growing share of American households' total at-home food budget.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

With more outlets offering fruit, only 68 percent of perishable goods are now bought at traditional grocers, according to Nielsen -- down from nearly 100 percent 15 years ago. Fresh fruit is now available in local gas stations, pharmacies and big-box stores, for example.

Getting Fresh
Fresh fruit use, per capita, in the U.S.
Source: USDA

Immigrants to the U.S. are also exposing shoppers to an ever-wider variety of fruit, because stores in some regions are selling what immigrants ate in their native countries. Transportation and storage advancements have also made it possible to consume some fruit year-round (such as avocados, papayas and berries, as well as many tropical fruits -- boosting sales of those foods).

Even Americans’ citrus cravings are changing: tangerines and mandarins are in demand while oranges are in decline (grapefruit consumption is down too, but that’s because it interferes with anti-cholesterol drugs).

Bearing Fruit
Per capita annual usage of high-growth fresh fruits in the U.S.
Source: USDA

Less common fruit and those that were once too difficult to transport have seen the most growth. That segment has contributed more to the overall rise in fruit consumption than such category heavyweights as bananas, apples and oranges. Fruit is highly perishable, though, so supermarkets and grocers have stocking risks that don't come along with pre-packaged stuff such as Ring Dings.

Fruit by the Pound
Per capita annual usage of the top-three fresh fruits in the U.S.
Source: USDA

Fruit is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak retail food market. Retailers like Costco and Wal-Mart are increasing the amount of space they assign to fresh goods, including fruit. Kroger, as my Gadfly colleague Shelly Banjo recently noted, is a pioneer in using analytics to target customer buying habits -- making it well-positioned in the organic, locally-grown and fresh food arenas.

Update: This story has been updated to more precisely reflect the percentage of perishable goods bought at traditional grocers.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Rani Molla in New York at rmolla2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.net