2020 has been a year for the history books. Just inside the grocery store walls, we have experienced panic buying, supply chain disruptions, hero pay, out of stocks, price increases, new cleaning regimens and customer mandates, and – maybe finally, a sense of what our new normal will be.
According to data from IRI, dollar sales growth for the total grocery store jumped up 63% in mid-March, compared to the same week in 2019. Individual departments also saw unprecedented growth, including the meat department, which had the largest jump with 91% dollar sales growth the week of March 22.1 Much of this business, as you know, was due in part to the closing of foodservice establishments across the country and consumers quarantining at home.
These unprecedented sales increases for grocery stores – and meat departments in particular – not only generated unexpected revenue, but also opportunities to service new customers.
“We were fortunate to have the opportunity to help our guests weather this pandemic and as a result, our business grew,” explained Mike Richter, vice president of fresh merchandising at Coborn’s, Inc., a Midwest supermarket chain. “At this point, we know we need to earn that business or we will lose it.”
Now, as we prepare for 2021, we cannot take our foot off the gas. It’s time to take what we learned this year, understand how the consumer has changed, tighten our messaging and up our branding. Each of these elements will be important to retaining the new business 2020 brought.
At Midan Marketing, we have been tracking shopping changes at the meat case since March with monthly consumer surveys. Some of the results, like the increase in stockpiling behaviors, are unsurprising given the overall narrative of the pandemic. But other results were less expected. For example, in September 33% of consumers reported eating more meat or chicken in the past month. The same number (about 1 in 3) say they plan to purchase meat primarily online once COVID-19 ends. And 3 in 5 shoppers think they will continue experimenting with new recipes and methods of cooking meat.2