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Here's to Recession-Proof Products!

April 14, 2009
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In a report released last week, the Mintel International Group Ltd., Chicago, identified segments of the food and drink marketplace that are holding up in down times. The research was part of Mintel’s effort to review and reforecast its reports over the past couple of years to determine areas that have been positively impacted by the recent (and remarkable) economic conditions.

Among the “recession-proof” food items on people’s shopping lists right now: bread, sweet spreads, frozen meals, side dishes and coffee. According to Mintel, sales of bread, expected to grow by 2.1 percent in 2008, actually gained 7.0 percent overall, while frozen meal sales climbed 4.5 percent, compared to a forecasted 0.3 percent decline.

Mintel’s researchers concluded that these segments are performing strongly because of consumers’ changing dining and shopping habits, particularly the move to eating at home and bringing meals and snacks to work. In addition, such items can be purchased at a typical grocery store for a relatively low price, then prepared and enjoyed at home with relative ease.

“It’s all good, hearty comfort food. That is pretty much what’s going on,” Bill Patterson, a Mintel senior market analyst, told eReport.

Within those recession-proof segments, private label might or might not benefit from the recent consumer behavior changes, depending on the product and consumers’ mindsets, Patterson said.

“My guess is that if you are brown bagging it more and picking up things for a PB&J [sandwich], you'll go with PB&J products you tend to know, because you’ve already made a sacrifice,” he remarked.

That said, a new Mintel report related to private label shows that certain private label segments are doing very well, including shredded cheese, processed cheese slices, canned vegetables, potato chips and more. In general, Mintel projects an 8.1 percent market share gain for private label foods this year, versus 2.6 percent for branded items.

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