Americans looking to get their caffeine fix drove sizable increases in the dollar sales of ready-to-drink tea and coffee, with these emerging as the #1 and #3 growth categories in the grocery department in 2016, according to recent data from Nielsen. In fact, liquid tea sported not only the highest dollar growth (of 19.5%) but also the highest unit volume growth (of 14.4%).
Ready-to-eat meals also saw significant growth, with deli sushi the #2 category in dollar growth (+16.4%) and lunch combinations (pre-made lunch options such as sandwiches and snacks) in the #4 spot with 14.4% growth.
The analysts note that this year’s grocery trends appear to be motivated by a consumer “desire to do things quicker – without compromising on quality.” As such, sales of ready-to-bring beverages such as coffee and tea, as well as quick meal solutions (including combination lunches) saw double-digit unit and dollar sales growth.
That desire for easy meal solutions extended to other fast-growing categories. Value-added fruit (9.4% dollar growth) and vegetables (8.9% dollar growth) also appeared in the top 10, as did meat-packaged meals, evidence of a wish to cut down on meal preparation and cooking time.
These trends are interesting in light of signs that home cooking is on the upswing in the US. Though the research was commissioned by an online grocer (Peapod), a recent survey found that 72% of Americans cooked at home at least 4 nights per week last year, and that about one-third (34%) plan to do so more often this year. Interestingly, Millennials (49%) were twice as likely as Boomers (24%) to say they’d cook more at home this year.
This could spell trouble for the US restaurant industry, which The NPD Group predicts will remain relatively stagnant this year. The firm expects that quick service restaurants (QSRs) will see an increase in visits of 1% this year, above its flat 2016, but that full service restaurants will see a 2% decline. In sum, that would result in a lack of growth in traffic for the overall industry.
About the Data: Nielsen’s data is limited to categories with annual dollar sales greater than $500 million. The data is sourced from all US outlets combined (grocery, drug, mass merchandisers, convenience, select dollar stores, select warehouse clubs and military commissaries) for the period ending Oct. 1 2016.