How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost?

USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) has estimated average costs for over 150 fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, using 2013, 2016, 2020, and 2022 retail scanner data from Circana (formerly Information Resources, Inc. (IRI)). A selection of retail establishments across the United States provides Circana with weekly retail sales data (revenue and quantity). These retail establishments include grocery stores, supermarkets, supercenters, convenience stores, drug stores, and liquor stores.

These data can be used to assess how much money it costs U.S. households to eat a sufficient quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables. They should not be used for making inferences about price changes over time. Although USDA, ERS researchers priced similar fruit and vegetable products for each year, they used different methods for coding the underlying Circana data, new products entered the market, and old products exited the market, among other factors.

USDA, ERS estimated the average retail per-pound price of each product (per-pint price for juices). To estimate the cost of consuming each food, USDA, ERS researchers then adjusted retail quantities for the removal of inedible parts and cooking loss which occur before eating. Costs to consume foods were then estimated per edible cup equivalent as defined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. USDA, ERS assumes sole responsibility for its assumptions and calculations using the Circana data.

An edible cup equivalent is the unit of measurement used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services to report fruit and vegetable consumption recommendations. This measure differs from other government data sets, such as the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Average Price Data that report prices for selected foods "as purchased." For example, BLS reports national average dollars-per-pound retail prices for apples and oranges. For most fruits and vegetables, a cup equivalent is the edible portion that will fit into a 1-cup measuring cup; for raisins and other dried fruit, it is the edible portion that will fit into a 1/2-cup; and for leafy vegetables, 2 cups.

This page contains documentation for the cost of fruits and vegetables:

Selecting fruits and vegetables to price

A wide variety of fruits and vegetables is available at retail stores across the United States. USDA, ERS priced selected types of fruits and vegetables in various fresh and processed forms. Foods identified for pricing are very specific products and include fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fruit juices, and processed fruits and vegetables (canned, frozen, or dried products). For example, apples include fresh apples and applesauce. Apples are also priced in two juice forms: ready-to-drink and frozen concentrate that must be reconstituted at home.

USDA, ERS researchers excluded organic products from the analysis. Thus, price estimates are for conventionally produced food only.

Estimating the price of buying selected foods at retail

The next step in USDA, ERS's analysis was to estimate each food’s average retail price. Using 2013, 2016, 2020, and 2022 data, researchers estimated total sales for all stores providing data to Circana for its retail scanner data product (named OmniMarket Core Outlets (formerly InfoScan)). Sales were calculated by weight and by dollars, aggregating across all stores. Average retail prices per pound or per pint were then estimated for all products as the ratio of aggregated sales in dollars to aggregated sales by weight.

Although the estimate of total sales for each food item by dollars is fairly straightforward, estimating total sales by weight is more complicated. Fruits and vegetables are sold primarily by the pound or ounce. For example, whole fresh carrots are typically sold in bags weighing 1, 2, or 5 pounds. However, some other types of produce, such as melons, pineapples, and lettuce are more commonly priced per piece of fruit or per head of lettuce. For retail items sold this way, it is necessary to convert sales to dollars per pound, using a numeric conversion factor. For example, an assumption is made about the average weight in pounds of a typical melon, a typical pineapple, and a typical head of lettuce.

Retail price estimates calculated by USDA, ERS are very broad averages. Costs are defined as the average prices paid by all U.S. households for a food product over a year, including purchases in different package sizes, under different brand names, and at different types of retail outlets. Of course, prices do vary seasonally, and annual averages may disproportionately reflect in-season prices in some cases. Retail food prices can also vary between supercenters, supermarkets, wholesale club stores, and convenience stores, among other retail formats.   

Estimating the costs to consume fruits and vegetables

The final step in the analysis was to estimate a household’s costs for consuming fruits and vegetables per edible cup equivalent. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans states fruit and vegetable consumption recommendations in cup equivalents. For most fruits and vegetables, a cup equivalent is the amount of the edible portion of a fruit or vegetable (e.g., minus pits or peels) that will fit in a standard 1-cup measuring cup. But not always. Some foods are more concentrated, and some are airier or contain more water. A cup equivalent for lettuce and other raw leafy vegetables is 2 cups; for raisins and other dried fruits, it is a 1/2 cup.

The USDA Food Pattern Equivalents Database (FPED) reports the weight in grams of a cup equivalent of different fruits and vegetables. One cup equivalent of cooked whole kernel corn weighs 165 grams whether from a fresh, frozen, or canned product whereas one cup equivalent of fresh raw apple with skin weighs 110 grams.

Costs to consume foods per edible cup equivalent were calculated by adjusting retail prices for the removal of inedible parts and cooking loss that occur prior to consumption. For example, 1 pound of store-bought fresh pineapple yields 0.51 pounds of edible fruit after the removal of the core, crown, and parings. Frozen spinach also loses weight when cooked. Preparing a 10-ounce package yields 220 grams of cooked vegetable.

Data on cooking yields, edible shares, and inedible shares of fruits and vegetables are from USDA Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR), the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS), and Food Yields Summarized by Different Stages of Preparation, Agriculture Handbook 102 (AH102). If weight is lost in preparation, USDA, ERS defines a food's retail-equivalent weight as:

Retail-equivalent weight = weight of a cup equivalent / (1 - share lost)

where shares are expressed as fractions. For example, USDA, ARS’ SR reports that 10 percent of a fresh apple is inedible, whereas FPED lists the weight of a 1-cup equivalent of raw apple with skin at 110 grams. To eat a 1-cup equivalent, households must therefore buy 110/0.9 = 122.22 grams of whole fresh apples. In contrast, if weight is gained in preparation, a food item's retail-equivalent weight is defined as:

Retail-equivalent weight = weight of a cup equivalent / (1 + share gained)

where shares are again expressed as fractions. USDA, ARS’ FNDDS reports that cooking dry pinto beans increases their weight. The weight of the cooked product is 239.9 percent of the weight of the dry beans prior to cooking. USDA, ARS’ FPED further lists the weight of a 1-cup equivalent of cooked pinto beans at 175 grams. Households must therefore buy 175/2.399 = 72.95 grams of dry pinto beans at a retail store to eat a 1-cup equivalent at home.

Because cup equivalent weights are in grams, it was necessary to convert earlier estimates of retail prices from dollars-per-pound to dollars-per-gram (by dividing by 453.59), and calculate the cost to eat a cup equivalent of a food item as:

Price per cup equivalent = (average retail price per gram) x (retail-equivalent weight in grams).

Both preparation yield factors and cup-equivalent weights are different for each product. USDA, ERS' specific formula for each fruit and vegetable is displayed in the data tables.

Sources of Error

There are a few known sources of error in Fruit and Vegetable Prices including the choice of conversion factors and issues with the scanner data.

  1. Retail items may require preparation before being consumed. Products may need to be cooked and/or inedible parts removed. Estimates of a product’s inedible share and the amount of weight gained or lost through cooking are based on samples of products. These amounts vary and will be different for specific products bought by a household (e.g., the amount of inedible core in an apple will vary across different pieces of fruit).
  2. Stores that participate in Circana’s retail panel may not be representative of the national composition of stores. USDA, ERS is developing store weights to account for this possibility.

Recommended citation

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. (2024). Fruit and vegetable prices.