The most recent release of monthly sales data from the US Census Bureau reported that unadjusted retail sales at food and beverage stores posted a 13.4% increase for the first four months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. While April 2020 sales were down 12.8% from March’s historically high levels, it was still 14.5% above comparable sales in April 2019.
This reflects a few main factors:
- Consumers are largely done with the major stockpiling of their pantries, freezers, and refrigerators ahead of stay-at-home orders and are now more targeted in their stockpiling (e.g., of products such as fresh meat and canned/dry beans which have at times had limited availability).
- Children continue to dine at home as most schools and related cafeterias remain closed.
- While the percentage of consumer food spending that has shifted from eating out to eating at home remains high, some consumers increased their spending on carryout and delivery foodservice in April as they either got tired of cooking or became more likely to venture out.
- The US Labor Department reported that food prices jumped 2.6% from March to April, a spike that was widespread but sharpest in meats, poultry, fish, and eggs followed by cereals and bakery products.
Expect May food retail sales figures to remain above same-month 2019 patterns but likely not to the same degree as April 2020. Dine-in operations have begun to open in many states, and more workers are returning to their primary workplace. However, a large number of consumers are still feeling economically uncertain or working at home, thus still limiting away-from-home food purchases.
Carryout and delivery foodservice spending will continue to rise as restaurants offer delivery deals and continue to improve their carryout and delivery procedures with expanded online ordering and contact-free payments, carryout, or delivery.
For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s coverage of the packaging industry as well as our sister publisher Package Facts’ coverage of the food and beverage industry.