Lessons during the lockdown showed the burst in retail sales wasn’t limited to the bread aisle. Retail sales of frozen pizza, refrigerated dough, soup and flour surged and dispelled a myth that the center of the store is where brands go to die. And the most recent data show many categories are still up double digits over last year.
“This may be the biggest quick take from COVID-19,” Tom Vierhile, vice president, strategic insights, North America, Innova Market Insights, told Baking & Snack recently. “The center store is not dead, and consumers are seeing packaged foods in a new light. With household budgets facing unbelievable strain right now, center-store products are now seen as ‘save the day’ products.”
Food companies, he added, are getting a rare opportunity to showcase to consumers that today’s packaged food products are not like the ones they recall from decades ago.
“Quality has improved, and these products now deserve a second look,” Mr. Vierhile said.
The center-aisle shift was on everyone’s radar. Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader for IRI, noted the ongoing hike in retail sales shows that the middle of the store is hardly moribund, and growth isn’t difficult to find anymore. Julie Miller Jones, member of the Grain Foods Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, pointed out the empty shelves debunked the myth that people think processed foods are bad.
“Our need for pantries filled with staple foods that we can rely on has shown the importance of processed food in keeping our families nourished even during times of crisis,” Ms. Miller Jones said.
Opportunity is still knocking. Bakers need to take advantage of these lessons learned.