Sports drinks, fresh fruits top back-to-school grocery lists

Photo: iStock/Tatyana GI

Sports drinks seem to signal the start of the school year, according to numbers crunched by market data firm Nielsen.

To put it in numbers, 35% more dollars per week were spent on sports drinks during the ‘back-to-school’ weeks (Aug. 13, 2016 – Sept. 10, 2016) compared to an average week throughout the year. Sports drinks led the pack of packaged goods that experienced an uptick in dollar sales when students started school around the nation, Nielsen's report revealed.

Though sports drink sales in general were stagnant—little change between calendar year 2015 and 2016 —they did experience a 5% sales increase when comparing just the back to school period in 2015 to 2016. It was followed by cookie snack and variety packs with 19% more dollar sales during the back to school period, and then pop-up toaster pastries with 14%.

What are parents looking for?

“When it comes to sports drinks, discerning shoppers are comparing ingredients across the many colorful and flavorful options and paying close attention to what’s in and not in the items they buy,” according to Nielsen.

Consumers spent 37% more on sports drinks that are free of artificial sweeteners, and 19% on those free of sugar. Sports drinks with antioxidant properties went up 29% in this period, and free-from artificial colors went up by 25%. The sports drink space has been filling up with new brands that want to deliver a ‘better-for-you’ option (such as Kra), ushering what some analysts call the new era of sports drinks.

For cookie snacks, which took second place, products with fiber claims enjoyed a 43% surge in sales during the back-to-school period compared to the average week. This was followed by cookies with sugar alternatives (35%), more protein (27%), and free from nuts (26%).

School-year start momentum

For some categories, the start of the school year brings in a rush of sales in an otherwise tepid year. Pop-up toaster pastries experienced a 4% decrease in the calendar year but went up by 1% when the back-to-school period is isolated.

Same goes for hummus, with a 5% decrease in the calendar year overall but 1% increase when the school year starts.

The biggest jump goes to packaged brownies, where sales dipped annually by 3% but went up by 8% looking at the back to school period.

Going fresh

Nielsen also observed spikes in sales for fresh produce during the back-to-school period. While the top spot in produce in terms of total dollar sales goes to the apple, with $243.5 million, Nielsen data revealed that mango was the shining star, topping in terms of sales growth.

From 2015 to 2016, volume of mango sales in the five weeks of the back-to-school period grew by 73.6%, while dollar growth was at 33.7%, hitting $22.5 million.

To Nielsen, mango’s top spot was a sign that kids are looking for new flavors, just like their parents.

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