Category Review:  Dry Grocery Dominates Autumn Spice Sales

Category Review: Dry Grocery Dominates Autumn Spice Sales

October 3, 2018
Retail Industry Insights

By Al Heller, Contributing Editor,

Produce may be the showpiece department of food retailers, but when it comes to spice sales in the fall season, the dry grocery aisle is consumers’ go-to place to buy.  Spice dollar sales there far outpace fresh spice sales from the produce department.

When fall temperatures cool, cooking in the kitchen resumes, football tailgates fill weekends, and hosts plan for perfect Thanksgiving meals.   The packaged spices category, in the center of it all, produced strongly in the 12 weeks ended November 25, 2017, according to data by Nielsen Retail Measurement Services.

Dry grocery spice sales outpaced fresh-produce spice sales by a nearly 3:1 margin, showed U.S. data for all outlets of the eight most popular spices tracked.  Dollar sales of these spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, sage, ginger, thyme, rosemary and allspice – were a collective $121 million in packaged form vs. $45 million in fresh form during the 12 weeks.  The data represent sales of both UPC-coded and random-weight non-UPC-coded product.

Retail RDs often recommend spices as a way to increase the flavor and appeal of healthier foods, replacing sodium and saturated fats. By examining sales trends within this data, retail dietitians may gain higher compliance rates to their spice suggestions by leading shoppers to product forms they prefer.  Most preferences are in the center-store aisle, though the produce area wins a few too. There’s no single rule in the fall season; it pays to understand exactly where some of the stark sales differences exist.   For instance, in dry grocery cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, sage and allspice had significantly higher sales than their fresh counterparts.  However, fresh was a more popular form for ginger, thyme and rosemary.

To leverage these industry insights for shopper adoption of healthier eating habits and higher spice sales for your retailer, consider showcasing meal solutions and recipes that feature companion spices that are popular in fresh with dry forms that see higher sales.  Consider cross merchandising dry and fresh versions of complementary spices such as nutmeg and ginger.  Promoting the higher selling dry spices can be an effective way to get shoppers into center store aisles, and social media can be an effective way to remind consumers of the fall flavors available in the spice aisle.