30% of cherry
buyers surveyed
reported buying
cherries both instore
and online during
the season.
Online cherry shoppers
were two times (2x)
more likely to be a
weekly buyer (compared
to instore shoppers)
Over half (59%) of surveyed cherry buyers were influenced by the health benefits of cherries when they made their decision to purchase
83% of online cherry buyers
surveyed said they expected to
continue shopping online even
after the pandemic ends
40% of online shoppers
are buying multiple bags

Nearly 4 times the rate of
instore shoppers
1 in 4 shoppers made their first
fresh cherry purchase in early
June or before.
Over 60% of all cherry shoppers started buying in June.
With 86.5% AVG Dollar Growth and
$239 million Y.O.Y. Absolute Dollar Growth, cherries led the fresh category
(IRI, March-September, 2020)
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A 2020 look at the fresh cherry category

There’s no doubt that 2020 will be studied intensely in the years to come.  It’s too early to know how applicable the lessons learned in retail will be in the long-term future, but survey data shows that consumers intend to maintain at least some of their new shopping behaviors for the foreseeable future.  So with that in mind, the Northwest Cherry Growers have compiled a top level look at the first research studies to come in on the 2020 cherry season.

In 2020, U.S. consumers buying groceries online grew at a staggering rate.  According to IRI, June online grocery spending  increased 80% from March’s all time record at the outset of the pandemic. Sky rocketing demand combined with Covid-related disruptions led to bare shelves and stressed supply chains, so sales data will be forever marked with an asterisk.  To get a better idea of how consumers themselves would describe their Covid summer purchases, the NWCG procured a 3,000 consumer survey shortly after the season finished.

In 2020, U.S. consumers buying groceries online grew at a staggering rate.  According to IRI, June online grocery spending  increased 80% from March’s all time record at the outset of the pandemic. Sky rocketing demand combined with Covid-related disruptions led to bare shelves and stressed supply chains, so sales data will be forever marked with an asterisk.  To get a better idea of how consumers themselves would describe their Covid summer purchases, the NWCG procured a 3,000 consumer survey shortly after the season finished.

When “remain at home” orders went into effect this spring, it highlighted just how many Americans relied on food service for their meals.  Online retailers saw tremendous sales spikes across a wide range of basic cooking supplies when lockdown orders started going into effect.  A new group of home chefs was born.  Now armed with the essentials, these new home cooks joined the millions already turning to baking and cooking as a way of coping and passing the time during the 2020 summer.  In their report on Covid-related shifts in viewing habits, Youtube highlighted these astonishingly aligned trends worldwide.  Then and now, people at home around the globe have been watching more videos about making food both better and healthier than ever before. 

For brands and products with documented health benefits, it was and is a careful opportunity to align your messaging to engage this rise in online and active consumers.  In several of our own marketing programs, we found our consumer click-through rate (for more information) was 53% higher than the industry benchmarks.

When “remain at home” orders went into effect this spring, it highlighted just how many Americans relied on food service for their meals.  Online retailers saw tremendous sales spikes across a wide range of basic cooking supplies when lockdown orders started going into effect.  A new group of home chefs was born.  Now armed with the essentials, these new home cooks joined the millions already turning to baking and cooking as a way of coping and passing the time during the 2020 summer.  In their report on Covid-related shifts in viewing habits, Youtube highlighted these astonishingly aligned trends worldwide.  Then and now, people at home around the globe have been watching more videos about making food both better and healthier than ever before. 

For brands and products with documented health benefits, it was and is a careful opportunity to align your messaging to engage this rise in online and active consumers.  In several of our own marketing programs, we found our consumer click-through rate (for more information) was 53% higher than the industry benchmarks.

Going into the cherry season, not just America but most of the world was cooking from home. However, they were also shopping from home, which presented a problem for items not bought regularly.  By the start of cherry season, IRI estimates that around 40 million Americans were purchasing groceries online for the first time.  That shift to online shopping created a significant challenge for the NWCG, as well as retailers already pressed just to keep products on the shelves.  By pursuing and creating a number of digital promotions within existing systems, such as retailer banner ads and product features within the digital shopping environment, and supporting those with targeted digital consumer campaigns, going into the summer of 2020 Northwest cherries online were just front and center as their in-store counterparts. 

Going into the cherry season, not just America but most of the world was cooking from home. However, they were also shopping from home, which presented a problem for items not bought regularly.  By the start of cherry season, IRI estimates that around 40 million Americans were purchasing groceries online for the first time.  That shift to online shopping created a significant challenge for the NWCG, as well as retailers already pressed just to keep products on the shelves.  By pursuing and creating a number of digital promotions within existing systems, such as retailer banner ads and product features within the digital shopping environment, and supporting those with targeted digital consumer campaigns, going into the summer of 2020 Northwest cherries online were just front and center as their in-store counterparts. 

On one question in particular, both in-store and online shoppers were abundantly clear.  We asked about their intentions to continue shopping the way they have been during the pandemic, even after it ends.  A full 90% of respondents said they expect to continue shopping the same way for at least a year.  Pressing further, we asked the online buyers if they thought they would continue to shop online even after the pandemic ends.  Eighty three percent (83%) said they would, and only 4% said they would return to in-store shopping.

So while these research and survey results are certainly reflective of a highly unusual and very dynamic cherry season, if we listen to the customers there appears to be a very good reason to use 2020 as a new framework for the cherry seasons to come.

On one question in particular, both in-store and online shoppers were abundantly clear.  We asked about their intentions to continue shopping the way they have been during the pandemic, even after it ends.  A full 90% of respondents said they expect to continue shopping the same way for at least a year.  Pressing further, we asked the online buyers if they thought they would continue to shop online even after the pandemic ends.  Eighty three percent (83%) said they would, and only 4% said they would return to in-store shopping.

So while these research and survey results are certainly reflective of a highly unusual and very dynamic cherry season, if we listen to the customers there appears to be a very good reason to use 2020 as a new framework for the cherry seasons to come.

According to the data, a decade ago cherry buyers were twice as likely to be found in large urban centers and affluent suburbs.  Growths in improved diets, health benefit awareness, population spread and a host of other contributing factors have helped spread cherry consumption father away from these metropolitan cores since then.  In our 2020 survey, 41% of cherry buyers reported living in smaller towns and rural areas.  Rural areas in particular have seen a 100% increase in purchase share over the past decade.

According to the data, a decade ago cherry buyers were twice as likely to be found in large urban centers and affluent suburbs.  Growths in improved diets, health benefit awareness, population spread and a host of other contributing factors have helped spread cherry consumption father away from these metropolitan cores since then.  In our 2020 survey, 41% of cherry buyers reported living in smaller towns and rural areas.  Rural areas in particular have seen a 100% increase in purchase share over the past decade.

As remarkable as that growth is, it pales in comparison to the growth in online cherry buyers this season alone.  Of the surveyed shoppers who bought cherries online in 2020, 55% percent had done so for the first time this year.

As remarkable as that growth is, it pales in comparison to the growth in online cherry buyers this season alone.  Of the surveyed shoppers who bought cherries online in 2020, 55% percent had done so for the first time this year.

When asked how they first became aware that Northwest cherries were back in stores, more shoppers said via online or digital channels (39%) than those reporting simply spotting them in the store (30%).

When asked how they first became aware that Northwest cherries were back in stores, more shoppers said via online or digital channels (39%) than those reporting simply spotting them in the store (30%).

In a year with explosive online sales, it’s no surprise that fresh cherries followed suit.  According to a nationally-weighted survey of over 3,000 shoppers, 42% of cherry buyers bought at least some cherries online during the season and 1 in 10 shopped solely online for cherries.  Amongst those online shoppers, collecting the groceries at the store was the single most popular method of fulfillment.  However, all together over half of all online cherry buyers used some form of grocery delivery.  Furthermore, 1 in 4 buyers didn’t go through a traditional brick and mortar grocery retailer at all to purchase their cherries.

In a year with explosive online sales, it’s no surprise that fresh cherries followed suit.  According to a nationally-weighted survey of over 3,000 shoppers, 42% of cherry buyers bought at least some cherries online during the season and 1 in 10 shopped solely online for cherries.  Amongst those online shoppers, collecting the groceries at the store was the single most popular method of fulfillment.  However, all together over half of all online cherry buyers used some form of grocery delivery.  Furthermore, 1 in 4 buyers didn’t go through a traditional brick and mortar grocery retailer at all to purchase their cherries.

The purchase size variance between in-store and online shoppers is one of the biggest surprises in the 2020 data so far.  It’s intriguing, but not conclusive, that the in-store buying rate of 1 bag (75%) lines up within the margin of error to our previous studies on impulse purchase rates.  In those studies of shopping patterns in the U.S. and abroad, the average impulse purchase rate was 72 percent.  Numbers like that suggest that the appearance of cherries during a trip through the produce department creates a demand, and essentially 3 out of 4 shoppers who decide to buy cherries grabbed 1 bag and put it in their cart.

“Stocking up” is a trend reported across many grocery categories,  but interestingly multiple unit cherry purchases are especially reflected in  online cherry buyers.  Whether to freeze for later or enjoy in the moment, it appears that thoughtful cherry purchases tend to be larger dollar sales.  Our survey showed that forty percent (40%) of online shoppers are buying multiple bags, or nearly 4x more than in-store shoppers. 

The purchase size variance between in-store and online shoppers is one of the biggest surprises in the 2020 data so far.  It’s intriguing, but not conclusive, that the in-store buying rate of 1 bag (75%) lines up within the margin of error to our previous studies on impulse purchase rates.  In those studies of shopping patterns in the U.S. and abroad, the average impulse purchase rate was 72 percent.  Numbers like that suggest that the appearance of cherries during a trip through the produce department creates a demand, and essentially 3 out of 4 shoppers who decide to buy cherries grabbed 1 bag and put it in their cart.

“Stocking up” is a trend reported across many grocery categories,  but interestingly multiple unit cherry purchases are especially reflected in  online cherry buyers.  Whether to freeze for later or enjoy in the moment, it appears that thoughtful cherry purchases tend to be larger dollar sales.  Our survey showed that forty percent (40%) of online shoppers are buying multiple bags, or nearly 4x more than in-store shoppers. 

 

And it’s not just the size of the basket that stands out compared to in-store shoppers.  The overall trend in grocery has been bigger carts and less frequent trips.  Though we’ve already shown that online baskets tend to be bigger, the 2020 online cherry shoppers were also two times (2x) more likely to be a weekly buyer (compared to in-store shoppers).  Just over 41% of surveyed online cherry buyers reported being weekly cherry buyers, compared to only 24% of in-store shoppers.  Interestingly, 11 percent of shoppers for both manners reported that they only buy 1 bag per season.

 

And it’s not just the size of the basket that stands out compared to in-store shoppers.  The overall trend in grocery has been bigger carts and less frequent trips.  Though we’ve already shown that online baskets tend to be bigger, the 2020 online cherry shoppers were also two times (2x) more likely to be a weekly buyer (compared to in-store shoppers).  Just over 41% of surveyed online cherry buyers reported being weekly cherry buyers, compared to only 24% of in-store shoppers.  Interestingly, 11 percent of shoppers for both manners reported that they only buy 1 bag per season.

Over half (59%) of surveyed cherry buyers were influenced by the health benefits of cherries when they made their decision to purchase this past summer.  However, when the same group was asked if they were weighing the health benefits of produce and other foods overall more heavily in 2020 than in previous summers, 1 in 3 (35%) said no .  Apparently, the awareness and acceptance of cherry health information has resonated above and beyond the general consumer shift toward plant-focused diets.  Almost emphasizing that fact, 73% of those who stated they were influenced reported cherries’ immunity-boosting role as the leading reason, and over half pointed to their anti-inflammatory properties.

Over half (59%) of surveyed cherry buyers were influenced by the health benefits of cherries when they made their decision to purchase this past summer.  However, when the same group was asked if they were weighing the health benefits of produce and other foods overall more heavily in 2020 than in previous summers, 1 in 3 (35%) said no .  Apparently, the awareness and acceptance of cherry health information has resonated above and beyond the general consumer shift toward plant-focused diets.  Almost emphasizing that fact, 73% of those who stated they were influenced reported cherries’ immunity-boosting role as the leading reason, and over half pointed to their anti-inflammatory properties.

Rainier cherries, the sweetest of all varieties, are prized by cherry lovers around the world.  Given the fact that devoted cherry buyers are over-represented in the online shopping demographic, it’s no surprise that yellow cherry buyers are likely to be online buyers.  In fact, nearly half of all Rainer cherry buyers surveyed reported buying at least some of them online during the 2020 season.

Rainier cherries, the sweetest of all varieties, are prized by cherry lovers around the world.  Given the fact that devoted cherry buyers are over-represented in the online shopping demographic, it’s no surprise that yellow cherry buyers are likely to be online buyers.  In fact, nearly half of all Rainer cherry buyers surveyed reported buying at least some of them online during the 2020 season.

Prior to Covid-19, quality or the desire to select one’s own produce was reported as the main hesitation to purchasing produce online.  However, over 3,000 cherry-buying survey respondents stated no difference between in-store and online-shopped cherry quality.  They also reported that the crops were largely excellent quality, with both groups reporting the 2020 crop as just a bit higher than 2019’s cherries.

Prior to Covid-19, quality or the desire to select one’s own produce was reported as the main hesitation to purchasing produce online.  However, over 3,000 cherry-buying survey respondents stated no difference between in-store and online-shopped cherry quality.  They also reported that the crops were largely excellent quality, with both groups reporting the 2020 crop as just a bit higher than 2019’s cherries.

The 2020 season is sure to be analyzed and reviewed for months, if not years, to come.  When such a huge part of the world is forced to re-evaluate how they’ve been buying food and where they’ve been taking their meals, it’s hard to believe that there won’t be some residual effects…especially after such a prolonged period.  We will continue to evaluate the data coming in from the 2020 season, and will release our full report during our 2021 preseason meetings.  In the meantime, we hope that this review of our 2020 fresh Northwest cherry consumer research will help frame your company’s 2020 performance in a meaningful way.  If you have questions about the data, or would like to discuss some particular aspect, we encourage you to reach out to the Northwest Cherry Growers using the menu above.

The 2020 season is sure to be analyzed and reviewed for months, if not years, to come.  When such a huge part of the world is forced to re-evaluate how they’ve been buying food and where they’ve been taking their meals, it’s hard to believe that there won’t be some residual effects…especially after such a prolonged period.  We will continue to evaluate the data coming in from the 2020 season, and will release our full report during our 2021 preseason meetings.  In the meantime, we hope that this review of our 2020 fresh Northwest cherry consumer research will help frame your company’s 2020 performance in a meaningful way.  If you have questions about the data, or would like to discuss some particular aspect, we encourage you to reach out to the Northwest Cherry Growers using the menu above.

Northwest Cherry Growers
Yakima, WA, U.S.A.
nwcherries.com