Over the past year, sales of dairy products in supermarkets and grocery stores have done very well, with milk up double digits to 10%, said Eric Richard, industry relations coordinator with the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA). In pre-pandemic February 2020, category sales were $58.3 billion, and by August, sales had soared to $63.7 billion.
With families preparing and eating more meals at home and shopping more often, Richard said he expects the trend upward will continue.
“The pandemic hasn’t changed the ways people are eating and drinking,” he said. “They’re looking for natural, not processed, protein-rich selections for themselves and their families.”
For the calendar year ending Dec. 27, 2020, IRI found that milk dollar sales at convenience stores were flat (up 0.5%) at $1.36 billion, while whole milk specifically grew 5.5% and skim milk dipped 1.7%. Ice cream and sherbet at c-stores climbed 24.9% to $655 million in dollar sales for the same period.
Packaged Facts research firm reported that plant-based dairy and egg product sales reached $4.3 billion in 2020, up from $3.9 billion in 2019, and anticipated that the sub-category would rise at an average rate of 6.0%, reaching $5.2 billion by 2024. Plant-based milk alone accounted for $2.4 billion in sales in 2020.
But, Richard pointed out, just because people are shopping for plant-based products, they are not giving up on traditional dairy items.
“We have found that 90% of people who have plant-based dairy products in their baskets also have regular dairy products,” he said.
In a report entitled “The Driving Force Behind Dairy Performance, Sept.16, 2020,” prepared by IRI for IDDBA, pre-pandemic sales of ice cream (week ending Feb. 2 to week ending March 1) was $124.3 million, up 3.1% over the year before.
During the ‘Panic Buy Early in the Pandemic’ period (week ending March 15 to week ending March 22), sales rose 39.4% over the year before; during the shelter-at-home period (week ending April 5 to week ending May 10), they increased 34.5%; and during re-opening (week ending May 17 through week ending Aug. 2 and future weeks), sales were $173.3 million, up 17.2%.
Ice Cream Sales Lift
At Rutter’s convenience stores, with 78 locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, ice cream showed “strong sales” in 2020, reported Joseph Bortner, center store category manager.
“Take-home sizes outpaced novelty items as consumer habits shifted from instant consumables to purchases meant to eat at home,” he said.
Bortner anticipates a continuation of these buying habits through 2021. Therefore, he is looking for pints and half-gallons to be the bestsellers.
“I also expect to see the novelties business growing,” he said, “especially during the six-month spring and summer window, just at a smaller rate than the larger sizes.”