The coronavirus outbreak in the US has revitalized sales in the center of retail stores, home of shelf-stable and frozen foods that have generally been experiencing declining or slow sales growth over a number of years, reports market research firm Packaged Facts in the report US Food Market Outlook 2020: Home Cooking, Grocery Shopping, & Food Trends in the Age of Coronavirus.
Previously, consumer's increasing desire for fresh unprocessed, healthier foods—found in store sections such as produce, meat and poultry, seafood, dairy, and deli and bakery—has been the main driver for the center store decline.
At times during the pandemic, shoppers have completely cleared shelves of paper goods and cleaners and food of all kind. The surge in consumption and sales for center store products — and all food and beverages — will not be sustainable once the country returns to a semblance of normalcy. While it is hard to predict what changes in behavior will stick after the coronavirus subsides, people will likely maintain a full pantry and freezer for the next crisis but will continue to switch from processed foods to fresher, more natural offerings. This might be especially true as people want to improve and maintain their health after a major world health scare.
While manufacturers of center store products have done much to improve the quality and health/nutrition profile of their products, the current crisis is likely to offer up some opportunities. For example, many consumers are being introduced or reintroduced to shelf-stable and frozen foods they may have shunned previously. This may spur future sales of products — such as frozen pizza and meals and natural, organic soups — that have made noticeable quality improvements over the last several years.