Nielsen: CPG sales continue to decline

NEW YORK — Volume sales for U.S. consumer packaged goods have fallen since last year due to higher prices, less promotional support and soaring temperatures, according to Nielsen SVP consumer and shopper insights Todd Hale.

Hale said that between late September 2011 and mid-April 2012, 50 of 64 major food and nonalcoholic beverage categories experienced declining unit sales. Among the declining categories, 16 of them accounted for 71% of the losses, while eight were typical cold weather categories. Hale noted that people took advantage of unseasonably warm weather and avoided preparation of traditional hot meals, noting the categories that beared the brunt of this trend included canned vegetables, soup and frozen prepared foods.

Despite these declines, Hale also noted that 14 edible categories saw unit gains, eight of which being categories historically popular in warm weather months. These included fresh produce, bottled water and ice.

"Given the challenges, more than ever, CPG food manufacturers and retailers must collaborate on consumer and shopper solutions," Hale said. "Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacking solutions that cross fresh and center-store departments and deliver value beyond low prices must take on increasing focus in stores and retailer ads. Easy recipes and tips for left-over food management go a long way with consumers. In lieu of making shoppers walk the entire store to assemble meals, finding secondary locations for center-store and fresh products can promote impulse purchases and make a meal occasion more complete."

Additional factors that CPG retailers and manufacturers may not be taking into consideration when developing a turnaround sales strategy: the rise of alternative channels (club, dollar, online); prepared-meals focus from retailers; an aging population; gas prices; and sales for the top 150 fast casual restaurants up 8.4% to $21.5 billion in 2011 – near pre-recession levels.

Looking ahead, Hale said that that those hoping for improved sales in the second half of 2012 into 2013 "may be disappointed."

"Record-breaking temperatures and wide-spread drought conditions this summer are expected to put added pressure on crop, feed and commodity prices for CPG products for the months ahead," Hale said.
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