Big market for small fruit in retail

I bet you didn’t know the favorite produce item among Trader Joe’s customers over the past few years has been the humble banana.

Each year, the Monrovia, CA-based specialty retailer polls customers on their favorites, and in every department—except produce—Trader Joe’s signature quirk shines through, with customers choosing things like Unexpected Cheddar, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, Everything but the Bagel Seasoning Blend, and Blue Cheese Mustard.

Surely bananas are too ho-hum, too…ordinary?

Bananas are the #1 seller among fruit in the United States, and have been for decades, but bananas lost their top spot in the 10th annual Customer Choice Awards from Trader Joe’s.

This year, shoppers chose Teeny Tiny Avocados. The bagged product, launched in 2017, aims to make avocados accessible for solo dining occasions, creating less waste and more value for cash-strapped shoppers. The launch comes at a time when many avocado shippers and promotional organizations are pushing to get as much fruit in consumers’ hands as possible.

Since then, we’ve seen off-grade bagged product across the United States and Canada, and numerous avocado brands launching smaller fruit packs. I can remember my first experience with tiny avocados, courtesy of Shanley Farms and their Gator Eggs, which were packaged in a modified egg carton, back in 2014.

Smaller fruit, in general, is enjoying strong demand thanks to clever marketing. Think of Wenatchee, WA-based Stemilt Growers’ Lil’ Snappers apples and the boom we’re seeing in clementine mandarin oranges, with prominent brands like Sun Pacific’s Cuties and Wonderful Citrus’ Halos.

I’ve even seen sweet onions—that normally wouldn’t be sold—bagged up in single-meal servings. Think of how many people have half an onion sitting in their fridge. Marketing onions that you use in one meal occasion is genius.

Those are just a few examples of how marketing is currently positioning smaller fruit as a feature, not a flaw, and I see this demand continuing to grow.

Pamela Riemenschneider is Retail Editor for Blue Book Services