August sees comparatively small gains in retail meat sales

The last full week of August saw the smallest increases since the start of the pandemic across virtually all departments.

The net effect for the meat department was the first single-digit increase versus year ago since the week of March 15, at +1.5% (IRI).
The net effect for the meat department was the first single-digit increase versus year ago since the week of March 15, at +1.5% (IRI).

The last full week of August saw the smallest increases since the start of the pandemic across virtually all departments. Prior months had also shown weak final week of the month sales and, in this case, the results were further influenced by a much earlier Labor Day in 2019 that fell on September 2. That means the sales results of the week ending August 30th 2020 went up against the 2019 Labor Day sales.

Labor Day has always been a massive holiday week for grocery — making it a much harder holiday to beat than ones that had more of a split retail versus foodservice nature in typical years, such as Mother’s Day. Additionally, sales were negatively affected by more extreme weather events, impacting large parts of Louisiana and Texas.

The net effect for the meat department was the first single-digit increase versus year ago since the week of March 15, at +1.5%. While at first glance this may seem like a disappointing gain, it is important to remember that this year’s everyday demand managed to beat last year’s holiday demand during one of the biggest grilling weekends of the summer.

At the same time, the 1.5% increase in dollars was driven by inflation with meat volume down 6.0% versus year ago. Prices continued to drop in favor of the consumer, with an average of $3.76 per volume across all meats during the week of August 30 versus $3.80 the week prior. The week of August 30th 2020 had 6.3% fewer transactions compared to same week year ago when Labor Day drove an increased engagement. 

The gap between dollar gains and volume gains narrowed to 7.5 percentage points — the smallest gap since mid- April and down from 19.1 points during the week of June 21st. After several strong weeks, processed meat sales were flat in dollars and off 10.1% in volume in going up against the 2019 holiday weekend. 

So far during the pandemic starting March 15 through August 30, overall meat dollar sales are up 31.7% and volume sales have increased 19.1% versus the same period last year. This translates into an additional $8.7 billion in meat department sales during the pandemic, which includes an additional $4.0 billion for beef, $1.2 billion for chicken and $881 million for pork than the same period in 2019.

Fresh chicken accounts for most meat dollars

Meat department sales were $1.23 billion during the week of August 30 — about $35 million lower than the week prior for a week-over-week loss of 2.8%. On the fresh side, beef accounted for 54.4% of dollars. Chicken was next at 26.4% of dollars.

In a complete reversal from most of the pandemic weeks, the holiday effect prompted chicken to have the highest absolute dollar gain, at more than $16 million, followed by $6 million for beef. Pork sales were down $11 million versus year ago. Fresh chicken accounted for 92.6% of new dollars this week.

What’s next?

Next week’s report will the last in the weekly series IRI and 210 Analytics have produced since the week of March 15, after which the report series will continue on a monthly basis. Next week will also show the results of the 2020 Labor Day weekend sales, which should be impressive going up against an everyday week in 2019. In addition to the strong holiday demand, everyday demand is likely to remain above prior year levels for many weeks to come.

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

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