To document the changing nature of the marketplace, IRI, Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics and Marriner Marketing have teamed up to continue to bring the latest trends and analysis relative to frozen food department sales. This is the third in a series of reports presented by IRI, discussing inflation trends.
The price per unit across all foods and beverages in the IRI-measured multi-outlet stores, including supermarkets, club, mass, supercenter, drug and military, increased an average of 10.3 percent in the four weeks ending March 27 versus the same four weeks in 2021.
Prices rose 9.9 percent during the first quarter of 2022 on top of the 5.5 percent of the first quarter in 2021. After many months of accelerated numbers, the inflation rate of 10.3 percent in March was the same as the rate seen in February.
Frozen food prices rose in 2020 and 2021, but less so than total food and beverages. In March 2022, the price per unit for frozen foods increased an average of 12.5 percent, which is higher than inflation for the total store, at 10.3 percent. Compared to two years ago; however, March inflation for frozen food is 15.6 percent versus 16.2 percent for all foods and beverages.
The biggest contributors to frozen food inflation were meat, poultry and seafood, meals and snacks. Frozen fruit and vegetables, baked goods, beverages and desserts averaged single-digit price per unit inflation versus March of 2021.
The frozen food department unit and volume sales were also affected by supply chain woes. Disruption continued to affect the number of items per store. Lapping the declines in assortment seen throughout 2020 and 2021, the number of items per store in the frozen food aisle averaged 1,436 in March 2022. Year-on-year this was down 6.5 percent but compared with 2020, assortment was down 11.3 percent. That means the many fewer items need to work harder to accomplish the same sales.
A deep-dive into frozen food sales
All March 2022 weeks came in around $1.3-1.4 billion in sales – mostly maintaining the levels seen in December through February. This meant increases of between 4 percent and 8 percent versus year ago but in going up against the incredible spikes of March 2020 – which includes the two biggest weeks in the history of grocery retailing – dollars were down by double digits. However, the fact that the fourth March week, the week ending March 27, ended within 3 percent of the 2020 levels is quite a hopeful sign for month to come.
The March sales growth over 2021 levels was supported by all areas within frozen. The biggest sales boosts came from frozen snacks and frozen meat/poultry/seafood. Within frozen meals, breakfast continued to have the strongest performance in dollars and units. In frozen animal protein, seafood had the highest sales, but processed poultry was the best growth performer.