• The three highest performing consumer packaged goods categories from March 22 – June 30 were frozen food, frozen meat, and alcohol, according to NCSolutions.
  • “The combination of graduations, holidays and warmer weather contributed to higher household spending on CPG categories such as alcohol, frozen foods and meat,” the NCSolutions study says.
  • Some consumers might feel it’s safe enough to socialize at outdoor gatherings like barbecue or picnics, since studies show the risk of coronavirus transmission is lower outdoors.
  • Searches for “bbq recipes” and “outdoor party” on Google are up at pre-pandemic levels.
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When the U.S. went into quarantine in March, consumers were buying up pantry goods so quickly that grocery stores had to limit quantities per customer. Pasta, beans, and flour were near impossible to find and social feeds were flooded with elaborate quarantine baking results. But as the seasons have shifted from late winter to peak summer, the joy of maintaining a sourdough starter is fading and people are craving social interactions. New data on consumers’ grocery shopping habits from NCSolutions indicates that despite record daily coronavirus cases, consumers are still shopping for typical summer events like barbecue, picnics and graduation parties.

According to NCSolutions’ data, the three highest performing consumer packaged goods categories from March 22 – June 30 were frozen food, frozen meat, and alcohol. Beer sales, in particular, are especially high, up 23% from last year. Additionally, a recent Nielsen study found that during the week of June 14-20 seafood was the highest year over year, up 38% from the previous year, followed by frozen food and meat. 

“The combination of graduations, holidays and warmer weather contributed to higher household spending on CPG categories such as alcohol, frozen foods and meat,” the NCSolutions study says, noting that total CPG sales in June were up 17% over 2019.

But social gatherings are still ill-advised in many regions, with some states reporting their highest numbers for new daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic hit the country. On Tuesday, the U.S. reported 67,400 new coronavirus cases, the fourth time the U.S. has broken its own record for daily cases in the last 8 days, according to CBS News. Though COVID-19 is currently more prevalent than it was in March and April, people have the urge to hang out and be social and are buying groceries that demonstrate that desire. Searches for “bbq recipes” and “outdoor party” on Google are up at pre-pandemic levels. 

“Many states are reopening gradually with limits on capacity,” NCSolutions CEO Linda Dupree said. “As a result, even as Americans take advantage of these opportunities, they’re doing so less than in previous summers.”

The reopening of restaurants in many states might also provide a sense of assurance to people who are dying for social interaction. While some consumers might still be wary of dining at a restaurant where they could be exposed to strangers, they might feel it’s safe enough to socialize at outdoor gatherings like barbecue or picnics, since studies show the risk of coronavirus transmission is lower outdoors. 

Meat shortages and resulting price surges might also be driving the shift towards frozen meat, which is less expensive than fresh and has a much longer shelf life.

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