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Retail meat sales robust even on non-holiday weeks

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Meat dollar sales up 35.3% and volume sales up 21.9% since onset of pandemic.

Meat sales have continued to be sharply higher since the emergence of COVID-19, even during non-holiday weeks. Several states have rolled back the reopening of restaurants and businesses, which will likely shift dollars back from foodservice to food retail once more, according to Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics LLC.

The week ending July 19 was the second of eight non-holiday weeks between Independence Day and Labor Day. Over the past two months, everyday retail demand had been experiencing week-to-week erosion as consumers started re-engaging with foodservice. However, the rising number of cases of COVID-19 around the country has consumers concerned.

The elevated everyday demand resulted in dollar sales for the meat department for the week of July 19 that were 23.4% higher than a year ago, 2% higher than the prior week and the highest gain since late May. Roerink said this was also the 18th week of double-digit gains since the onset of the pandemic. While higher prices drove much of the gain, she said volume gains hit double digits -- up 10.3% -- for the first time since the week of June 21, which was Father’s Day week.

Roerink relayed that the overall meat department gain was fueled by double-digit gains for all proteins, including chicken, which improved dollar gains from 8.8% the week of July 12 to 14.2% the week of July 19. Lamb and beef had the highest percentage growth, up 40.5% and 30.4%, respectively. Beef easily had the highest absolute dollar gains, rising $135 million, followed by chicken rising $31 million and pork increasing $20 million.

According to Roerink, unit sales continue to wow as well, with 19.6 million more transactions compared with same week year ago and 820 million more transactions since the pandemic began. Pre-pandemic, total meat department units were down versus a year ago. This points to more, but smaller, packages sold, Roerink added.

Since the onset of the pandemic, starting March 15 through July 19, dollar sales are up 35.3% and volume sales have increased 21.9% versus the same period last year. This translates into an additional $7.7 billion in meat department sales during the pandemic, Roerink explained, which includes an additional $3.5 billion for beef, $1.1 billion for chicken and $814 million for pork.

Meanwhile, meat product assortment has improved since dipping well below 300 items during the height of the supply chain issues. Assortment fell back down during the non-holiday week ending July 12, averaging 315 items per store, but rebounded a bit the week of July 19 to 317 items. Still, Roerink said this is down 23 items versus the same week last year.

Roerink said everyday retail demand is likely to continue to fuel double-digit increases for several more weeks as coronavirus cases rise around the country and raise consumer concerns in step. Demand will also be supported by slightly better prices, particularly for beef and pork, compared to the past few months, she added.

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