Australians love to munch on an apple, and we spend a sizeable amount every year to keep the doctor away! New research shows, however, that while we love our apples, we aren’t as loyal to our favourite variety as you’d think. Nielsen has published new data on the apple category that reveals how Aussie consumers shop across the category.
Despite a decline in apple sales of -3.7% over the past year, most Australian households (88.3%) purchased apples and spent close to $50 on average in the latest 52 weeks. The Pink Lady variety was the clear favourite, being purchased by more than two-thirds (65.5%) of Australian households and making up 40% of dollars spent on apples over the past year.
While Pink Lady leads in market share, shoppers are still buying other varieties too, and some interesting patterns are occurring. Six-in-ten (59%) Australian households purchased across three or more varieties throughout the course of the year, demonstrating that many shoppers are open to buying different types of apples rather than being faithful to a particular favourite.
Marketers often assume that the buyers of their produce love them and hold strong loyalties to their favourite items. However, this is not the case in the apple category. The discovery that consumers are not loyal to just one variety of apple was introduced at Hort Connections 2017 in a joint presentation by researchers from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science and Nielsen. We presented empirical evidence that apple varieties share customers with one another and that apple consumers are likely to buy multiple varieties. This is an interesting discovery! We now know that apple buyers are enjoying a cross section of apples, and aren’t buying the same variety every time. Byron Sharp’s international bestseller How Brands Grow: what marketers don’t know (a must-read for modern marketers) outlines this loyalty pattern as one of the “Laws of Growth”. This Law has been shown to occur across many different categories, countries and periods.
Nielsen’s Homescan data reveals that different household demographics purchase apples in different ways. Households aged 35 years or younger with no children are light apples buyers, spending just $24.30 across a year, and accounting for just 3.8% of total apple sales. Compared with other demographic groups, these younger households are also most likely (33%) to buy just one apple type over the course of the year. They love a Granny Smith, with 27% of their dollar spend on apples spent on Granny Smiths over the past year (versus just 17% of spend for all households).
It’s not surprising that apples are an absolute staple for households with families. Family households buy almost half (47.3%) of all apples sold (compared with 35.1% share of total grocery spend) and 47% of families buying apples, purchased four or more apple varieties over the course of the year. Much more than young households with no children - families are certainly focused on making their way to five a day!
To help improve growth of apple sales in Australia, there are some great examples of fun and interesting strategies. One of these is the ‘Imperfect Picks’ campaign, encouraging shoppers to buy “ugly” produce at a discount. French supermarket Intermarche launched their Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables in early 2014. This innovative idea caught the collective imagination, with Harris Farms launching Imperfect Picks soon after for which they picked up the PMA-Produce Plus marketer of the year award.
Australians love companies who are socially aware, so this creative way of dealing with food waste and offering cheaper products to shoppers has certainly resonated with consumers. One example of success is Woolworths’ Odd Bunch Apples which now accounts for 2% of apple category dollar sales after growing sales at healthy double digits over the past year.