The fresh foods department is one of the areas in supermarkets and grocery stores that has been badly hit with a downturn in sales this past year. Since most people stayed at home, had more time to cook, planned no gatherings, and had children who weren’t going to school, sales of fresh foods like bakery and deli plummeted.
However, in the past few months, as vaccinations continue to roll out in different states, people are beginning to go out more, get together, and are eager to live their normal lives. These changes have resulted in a gradual rebound of sales in the fresh foods department.
In the fresh bakery category, retailers are seeing a return in demand. As in-store shoppers are back visiting their local grocery stores and customers are excited about social gatherings, celebrations, and attending some events, some retailers found themselves offering fresh baked goods like specialty cakes and bread again. According to NielsenIQ, fresh bakery department dollar sales reached $14.6 billion as of May of this year and are expected to progress in the coming months.
Though the popularity of fresh produce, like fruits and vegetables, did not waver in the past few months, its growth has been continuous. According to the FMI (Food Management Institute) “2021 Power of Produce” report, the fresh produce department dollar sales reached $69.6 billion in 2020 and 44% of consumers said they were making a conscious effort of eating healthy foods. This increase in sales and change in behavior is greatly influenced by the health crisis and consumers becoming more aware of the importance of health and wellness.
For the deli department, some retailers are gradually reestablishing their self-serve and service areas as restrictions slowly ease and customers’ demand for prepared foods returns to more normal levels. According to IRI (a data analytics and market research company headquartered in the U.S.), deli sales are back strong in the first six months of 2021 with revenues of almost $20 billion.
This onset of a return to more normal customer buying behaviors offers a significant opportunity for retailers to dive into reinforcing strategies to boost more sales in the fresh foods department. Grocery shoppers want their needs to be met. The key to retailers meeting those needs is to keep their merchandise as enticing and engaging as possible while keeping their inventory in control. Reinforcing merchandising strategies is a great area to start. This can be accomplished by having the right tools, such as display cases and effective messaging, often personalized, to add value. Display cases such as service and self-service, multideck merchandisers are suitable for the fresh bakery goods, produce, and deli department.
The fresh foods department, being one of the most important areas of the retail store, has certainly seen its fair share of ups and downs due to the health crisis. It’s been a tough time for all of us in the retail food industry. But seeing how the fresh foods department has bounced back from uncertain times, just goes to show that as our industry continues to face different challenges, we always strive to find the way to prosper and carry on.