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Meat remains the biggest perimeter department for April sales

Here are category updates for the month of April

The month of April marked the second month of single-digit food and beverage costs rising  at +8.2% — this after a long stretch of double-digit price increases still likely impacting consumers’ wallets, according to new monthly category reports from market research firm 210 Analytics.

What’s more, in April 2023, food and beverage prices were still 23.1% above April 2020 levels. 

And as Supermarket News recently reported, grocery prices are already rising for the month of May, with an overall increase of 0.78% in prices from April to early May, with the steepest increase being observed in the cereals and bakery products segments at 1.05%.

Here are some other key category and consumer behavior takeaways from the month of April, according to 210 Analytics:

More money-saving measures

  • More meals were prepared at home in April (80%) and 22% of consumers planned to buy fewer restaurant meals. When buying groceries, 85% applied one or more money-saving measures. The temporary Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) emergency allotments (EAs) — a temporary benefit increase that Congress enacted to address rising food insecurity and provide economic stimulus during the COVID-19 pandemic — ended in March 2023. This is notable because the average SNAP recipient person receives about $90 a month less and households receive at least $95 less up to reductions of $250 per month
  • Consumers say they are more conscious of using up fresh foods before they go bad at 40%, they are using leftovers more at 39%, and 25% are using simpler ingredients. Consumers are buying frozen foods to enable them to use as much as needed for a meal (16%)
  • This resulted in continued volume and unit pressure, but a few areas showed that deflation can indeed increase demand: fruit, crab, lobster and grind meats are looking strong

Frozen foods are warming up

  • The April dollar sales growth (over 2022 levels) was supported by most areas within frozen. The exceptions were meat/poultry, seafood and beverages, where the unit declines were not offset by the increases in price 
  • The biggest sales gains came from frozen potatoes/onions and processed meat, such as chicken nuggets and sausage. Despite a 45% increase in the price per pound between April 2023 and April 2022, frozen potatoes/onions, which includes regular fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, etc., unit sales dropped a mere 1.2% versus April 2022

Dairy sees mixed results

  • Dairy sales continued to pace well ahead in April 2023, but it was inflation that boosted dollar sales by +7.6%
  • Dairy staples are seeing mixed results. Unit sales of eggs have fallen 6.2% behind April 2022 levels, milk units dropped 2.5%, but cheese is still growing at +0.9%
  • Several categories accomplished unit growth including natural cheese, cottage cheese and cheese snacks. In the past year, the share of households who purchased dairy items at least once per shopping trip remained stable at 99%

Deli is a go-to 

  • The consumer balancing act between time and money is reflected in deli-prepared foods, which saw the biggest sales growth in deli overall, with units down a mere 1.0%
  • Shoppers took slightly more trips across deli meat, cheese, and deli-prepared, at 52 trips, up 0.4% versus a year ago
  • Shoppers spent an average of $11 on deli items per qualifying trip, which was up 8% versus a year ago

The seafood struggle is real

  • Seafood’s struggle continues with shelf-stable, frozen and fresh seafood sales down for the second consecutive year. Millennials’ below-average engagement is hurting the category
  • Year-over-year fresh salmon price increases dropped to just +2.9% in April, but prices were up 16.8% for the full-year view. Crab and lobster experienced deflation
  • Sales across the top 10 fresh seafood species were very inconsistent in April. The market leader, salmon, generated more than three times the sales of the number two, crab
  • Only one other area in seafood achieved dollar gains in April — that being trout (2.2% in pound sales)

Meat prices becoming mild

  • The meat category remained the biggest perimeter department for sales, but with beef/pork deflation dollars and units dropped below April 2022 levels. Fresh meat sales held strong, but processed meat sales were challenged with the earlier Easter
  • The average price per pound in the meat department across all cuts and kinds, both fixed and random weight, stood at $4.45 in April 2023. Prices only increased slightly year-on-year, at +1.3% — continuing a trend of moderating levels
  • By protein, April prices decreased for beef, pork, lamb, bacon, dinner sausage and processed chicken. Bacon prices were down by double digits in April 2023 compared to April last year. Only turkey and packaged lunch meat had double-digit inflation 

The good news for grocers is that overall trips increased substantially as shoppers looked for promotions across stores, averaging 64 trips per year, up 2.6% versus a year ago.

Correction: May 17, 2023
SN previously reported that meat sales were up 20% for April, however, this was made in error and has now been corrected.
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