The average American consumed 3.5 more pounds of fresh fruit last year than the year before, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The per capita annual increase in 2016 was about 3% and primarily came from more lemons, limes, mangoes and blueberries being consumed, The Packer reported. Dropping in per capita consumption were grapefruit, peaches, bananas and avocados.
USDA figures show that the total fresh fruit per capita consumption last year was 116.05 pounds, compared to 112.5 pounds in 2015. Fresh citrus consumption was up 4% to 24.02 pounds per person in 2016, while fresh non-citrus per capita consumption rose 2% to 92.03 pounds last year.
These numbers aren't surprising considering fresh fruit purchases have been steadily increasing and millennials are following their parents' advice and eating their fruits and vegetables. Millennials consume more fresh fruits and vegetables than any other demographic, at 2.7 servings per day, according to The Oppenheimer Group.
More statistics bolster the growth of produce. United Fresh Produce Association’s 2016 Year in Review report found that sales of fresh produce increased 1.5% in volume and 3.6% in weekly dollar sales. Produce made up a third of all fresh grocery sales, second only to the meat department.
And according to research from IRI, produce has been responsible for much of the growth grocery stores have seen in the recent past. Sales growth on the store perimeter has been greater in the last four years than any other area, with fresh produce driving the largest share of sales at $62.5 billion. Part of this growth stems from greater consumer awareness that eating more fruits and vegetables can bolster overall health.
In response, Walmart, Kroger and other retailers have expanded their produce sections to meet increasing consumer demand for fresh fruit and vegetable varieties, especially since many shoppers have voiced disappointment with the fresh offerings at their supermarkets. And some retailers are embracing dietitians and other healthy eating experts to provide guidance for consumers who are trying to achieve healthier lifestyles. The approach has been shown to pay off with increased produce sales.
Also, supermarkets and other retail outlets are carrying more exotic fruits and vegetables these days. Specialty produce can attract a loyal customer base as adventurous shoppers seek new exotic foods, according to Progressive Grocer. Other unique fruits that are starting to become more common in American stores include jackfruit, dragon fruit, yellow-fleshed kiwis, sweet young coconuts, papaya, turmeric, Indian okra and rambutan.