GERMANY, Frankfurt. Memorial Day signals the traditional start of the summer grilling season, with meat and poultry promotions typically dominating the front page of grocery circulars around the country. Retailers usually highlight variety and convenience, while pushing volume with meat as the center of plate.
This year, however, tight supply along with price inflation and continued social distancing measures created a very different marketplace and demand. Purchase limits remained in place for many popular cuts, all the while more states allowed restaurants to re-open dine-in facilities, altering the demand landscape yet again. Despite the supply pressure, dollar sales grew 20.7% the week of May 24 versus year ago and volume grew 5.1%.
Year-to-date through May 24, meat department dollar sales were up 24.7%, boasting double-digit growth for eleven weeks running. This reflects an additional $5.8 bn. sold versus the same time period in 2019. Year-to-date volume sales through May 24 were up 17.3% over the same period in 2019, reflecting an additional 1.2 bn. pounds of meat and poultry sold versus the same time period in 2019.
The overall 20.7% meat department gain was fueled by double-digit gains for all proteins. The two smaller proteins, turkey (+33.7%) and lamb (+44.3%), had the highest percentage gains, but beef easily had the highest absolute dollar gains (+$104 mill.), followed by chicken (+$36 mill.) and pork (+$36 mill.).
Turkey’s strong week was driven by the combination of growth in ground turkey (+31.7%) and whole turkeys (+95.0%). The latter is driven by extended holiday promotions by several retailers and particularly Walmart’s “pay it forward,” no expiration gift card that can be used specifically towards a whole bird turkey or ham.