SAN ANTONIO – According to data collected and analyzed by 210 Analytics and IRI, perimeter sales the week ending on Aug. 23 came in at 10% above sales during the same timeframe in 2019, comparable to sales trends seen in earlier weeks of the month. 

“With seven weeks of just everyday demand driving the sales performance, I think it is fair to say that we are starting to look at the new normal,” said Jeremy Johnson, vice president of education for the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA). “While, without a doubt further improvement of new COVID-19 case count, a strengthening of the economy and a very different back-to-school season will continue to change the demand landscape, retail sales appear to be holding at about 10% above 2019 levels with great consistency. Now the question becomes how we continue to engage with consumers to keep the food dollar in retail.”  

The dairy department experienced a 14% gain in dollar sales compared to 2019 the week of Aug. 23. Top performers in the category were whipped toppings (up 24.3%), natural cheese (up 19.1%) and eggs (up 17.2%).   

The deli department came in 7% below 2019 sales numbers for the second week in a row. Deli prepared came in at 20% below 2019 sales with deli meat at 13% above and deli cheese at 12% above.     

“Shoppers’ focus on minimizing in-store trips has had big impact on retail foodservice,” said Eric Richard, industry relations coordinator for IDDBA. “To start, household penetration for total deli is down 1.1% versus year ago levels over the 26 weeks that end Aug. 23 versus that same time period in 2019. Next, the number of trips is down 16.6%, which is a big hit for sales as foodservice thrives in an environment with many, small trips, particularly in urban areas.” 

Bakery sales were still down the week of Aug. 23, coming in at 4.9% below 2019 sales. Donuts held down the category, coming in at 32.8% below 2019 levels and rolls were down 10.6%. Croissants were the best performer in the category, up 11%, followed by bread which was up 9%.           

The meat category came in at 16% above 2019 dollar sales and 7% above volume sales. Dollar wise, lamb (up 34.6%), beef (up 20.5%) and pork (up 10.6%) were the top performing meats. Chicken was up 7.2% and turkey was up 10%.    

“Labor challenges in the processing plants remain an issue, especially in the pork and poultry industries,” said Christine McCracken, executive director of food and agriculture for Rabobank. “Reports, late in the week, that a California poultry plant may be forced to close on rising cases of COVID-19 among its workforce are being watched closely by other processors, especially those facing ongoing issues of high absenteeism. The net result has been to limit supplies of deboned product. Even with large overall supplies of chicken, we continue to see modest premiums for boneless breast and thigh meat being paid. The same is true for boneless hams.” 

In the produce category, dollar sales gains totaled 10.4% the week of Aug. 23. Fresh vegetables are still outperforming fresh fruit, with vegetable sales up 13.8% and fruit sales up 7.5%. The top performers in the department were limes (up 44.9%), cherries (up 31.5%) and mushrooms (up 21.9%).    

“Ever since the end of June, growth rates for fresh produce have averaged between 8% and 12%,” said Joe Watson, vice president of membership and engagement for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA). “It appears that we are looking at a new normal that rides about 10% above last year’s levels. We have Labor Day coming up, a very different back-to-school landscape and we are about to switch over from soft fruit season to fall items. This is likely to prompt very different categories leading growth than we have seen these last few months on the fruit side.”