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Pandemic Category Sales Poised to Outlast Pandemic

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Pandemic Category Sales Poised to Outlast Pandemic
Catalina began closely tracking the impact of buying behavior at grocery and drug stores across the country last year.

A year after COVID-19 paralyzed the nation, shoppers are still buying a lot of face masks, hand sanitizer and household cleaner, and demand in those categories shows no signs of easing.

That's the major revelation from shopper intelligence leader Catalina, which began closely tracking the impact of buying behavior at grocery and drug stores across the country last year.

“We’ve painstakingly categorized shoppers into hundreds of customized audience segments on an anonymized basis in recent years. Knowing the type of products and brands they are likely to put into their carts allows us to tailor highly effective marketing messages and promotions, and deliver them across the most efficient media channels to trigger purchases,” said Catalina CMO Marta Cyhan. “Doing so in the midst of a pandemic when shopper behavior has changed so profoundly benefits both retailers and brands, as well as their customers who are appreciating value more than ever during these uncertain times.” 

According to Catalina, the Top 5 categories seeing the greatest sales growth over the past year are:

1. Home Health Testing Kits (includes Face Masks) - up 314%

2. Liquid Hand Soaps - up 246%  

3. Disinfectant Cleaners - up 235%                

4. Personal Moist Towelettes – up 155%

5. Household Cleaner Pre-moist Wipes – up 129%

Eight of the next 10 top-selling categories are either food or beverages that show an increased appetite for convenience and/or comfort. 

6.    Refrigerated Snacks/Cakes – up 87%  

7.    Juice, Frozen Drink Smoothies – up 85%

8.    Frozen Vegetables Breaded – up 83%  

9.    Powdered Milk – up 82%    

10.  Camping/Sports Accessories – up 77%  

11.  Frozen Seafood – up 71%

12.  Bacon: Light/Turkey/Chicken – up 65%

13.  Baking/Biscuit Mixes – up 64%

14.  Breakfast Drink Mixes – up 61%

15.  Fire Logs – up 53%

The lingering impact of lockdowns paved the way for a 9% average decline in weekly, in-person shopping trips starting in May 2020, compared to the prior year. While people by and large have been shopping less, they’ve been buying more. Spending per trip has increased by 23% on average, compared to 2019. Overall, average weekly spending on groceries has increased by 12%.

The rise of home baking during the pandemic has been well-documented and is underscored by data over the past year showing sales of Flour increased by 55%, Refrigerated Dough/Sweet Rolls up 46%, Brownie & Cookie Mixes up 45% and Shelf-Stable Pie Shells up 44% and Refrigerated Cookie/Brownie Dough and Yeast, both up 36%.

Just as Powdered Milk and Baking Mixes had shown modest declines in the early “pre-pandemic” weeks of 2020,  several other categories that were struggling also saw impressive sales spikes as the year progressed: Baking Extracts up 48%; Canned Pork & Beans and Chlorine Bleach both up 45%; Canned Meat Stew up 41%; and Marshmallows up 40%.

With the majority of bars and restaurants either closed, open only for takeout, and/or offering limited seating, adult beverages experienced strong sales upticks this past year, with Premixed Cocktails/Coolers up 84%, Domestic Beer/Ale up 31%; Imported Wine up 28%, Domestic Wine up 25%, Spirits up 24% and Imported Beer up 23%. 

Bathroom Tissue, the subject of much-publicized panic buying in the early days of the pandemic, ended up experiencing a 33% and 30% uptick in premium and value brand sales respectively over the past 12 months.

With so many Americans encouraged to work and attend school from home, there has been a noticeable decline in sales of personal care products over the past 12 months:

  • Wrinkle Reducers – down 27%          
  • Cosmetics Remover – down 19%
  • Breath Fresheners – down 26%            
  • Eye Cosmetics – down 11%
  • Face Cosmetics – down 20%          
  • Hair Care/Styling – down 9%

Likewise, with fewer opportunities for people to personally interact in business and social settings, several categories that experienced declining sales pre-pandemic continued that trend:

  • Hosiery & Tights – down 33%      
  • Weight Loss Pills – down 15%
  • Make-up Gift Sets – down 25%     
  • Alertness Aids – down 4%
  • Men’s Toiletries Gift Sets – down 25%  
  • Stationery/School Supplies – down 3%
  • Shoe Polish & Laces – down 20%

Catalina is the market leader in shopper intelligence and highly targeted in-store, TV and digital media that personalizes the shopper journey. Powered by the world’s richest real-time shopper database, Catalina helps CPG brands, retailers and agencies optimize every stage of media planning, execution and measurement to deliver $6.1 billion in consumer value annually. Catalina has no higher priority than ensuring the privacy and security of the data entrusted to the company and maintaining consumer trust.

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