"Meat continues to be the biggest department at $8.3b [for August], but it had some struggles keeping those units going, and with deflation on meat prices, the dollars actually cooled down as well. Produce had a second strong month, they had a strong July, strong August as well, where the pounds were actually up even though the units were down a little bit, [and] ... bakery has the highest gross at 4.1%, of course, most of that is inflation related,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics.
Eggs drag down dollar sales in dairy, units remain steady in August
While units held steady in August for dairy sales, the decline in egg prices from the highs of last year is impacting the dollar sales for the overall dairy category, which saw dollar sales drop 3.5% for the five weeks in August, though the category is up 11.3% for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 3, 2023, according to Circana MULO data.
“We're going to see the same story here for a couple of months to come, and that is the story that last year this time of the year, we of course, had that 50, 60, 70% inflation in eggs. Now, they're heavily deflating, and that is really what is pulling down those overall dairy numbers. So overall, we've not seen the unit demand for eggs come back. I expect that will take another couple of months until people fully realize how low the prices have got.”
Yogurts, whipped toppings, sour cream, and cottage cheese all registered increases in dollar and unit sales in August, and cream/creamers and cream cheese witnessed dollar sales increase of 4.2% and 2.6%, respectively. Yogurts saw 5.2% in dollars and 0.6% in unit growth, whipped toppings with 9.5% in dollar and 2.0% in unit growth, sour cream with 4.3% in dollar and 1.1% in unit growth, and cottage cheese with 17% in dollar and 13.2% in unit growth for the five weeks of August, ending Sept. 3, 2023.
Plant-based cheese continued its sharp decline, with sales coming in at $9m for August with a 14.7% decline in dollars and 11.67% decline in units.
Prepared deli sees a boost, as specialty cheese grows
For the deli department, deli cheese saw a 0.3% increase in dollars and a 1.1% decline in units, and deli meats saw a 1.7% decline in dollars and a 3.6% decline in units for the five weeks of August. However, deli prepared was "not only by a mile the biggest seller at $2.4b in August, but it also kept units flat" with 3.2% in dollar growth and 0.2% in unit growth, Roerink said.
"For a long time, deli prepared struggled to really be that true-restaurant alternative. But it's very, very important to see that during a month where consumers told us they're not cooking as much as they have been in other months to see this strength and deli prepared because that means a deli is starting to become a little bit of a restaurant replacement."
Consumers also are continuing to buy prepared deli items for entertaining purposes, Roerink said. The deli entertaining category, which includes specialty cheeses, saw $781m in sales in August, and dollar sales grew by 0.3% and 1.6% in units.
“Specialty cheese has really become something, and we all know about the charcuterie trend that ... is still going on a little bit with many new solutions coming into the marketplace and seeing a pound increase of more than a percent in August really shows that at-home entertaining is alive and well.”