Aphrodisiac foods can elevate Valentine's Day

January 15, 2010

The mating game goes on year-round, and food stores play a significant yet unpublicized role.

The mating game goes on year-round, and food stores play a significant yet unpublicized role. Men and women meet by the meat case, pick-ups happen in the produce aisle, shoppers scan other people's baskets for clues about whom they're feeding. Supermarkets even flirt with singles shopping nights.

The romance mainstays of supermarkets, however, are aphrodisiac foods—on display every day within their respective categories, though rarely labeled as 'foods for setting the mood.' They are in many parts of the store: honey, garlic, artichokes, champagne, chocolates, asparagus, almonds, avocados, bananas, berries, figs and wine are some of the best-known. Indeed, just about all of these deserve their place on a 'healthy foods' list too - proving that what's good for you can also be fun.

With Valentine's Day arriving next month, the Facts, Figures & The Future newsletter felt it timely to examine the performance of aphrodisiac foods - and urge retailers to create Valentine's Day displays that go well beyond chocolate. If stores applied more imagination to this day with themed displays, they might make a few customers blush. But we'd bet that most would associate this broader set of foods with romance and consider buying more.

Chocolates remain a core component, however. As this 'holiday' approaches, it may be more of a 'milk' year in 2010 than a time for dark chocolate, despite the antioxidant health benefits in the dark product (which has more cocoa content). The reason: cocoa prices are at a 30-year peak of $3,510 per ton, according to Reuters. Three other possible shifts to cope with the price rise, say experts: smaller packages, aerated chocolate, and more fruit fillings, which cost less to produce. Sounds to us like an opportune time for stores to leverage the day in new ways by thematically showing aphrodisiac foods together.

Nielsen data for sales of these UPC-coded products in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart) show some clear winners, both for the 52 weeks ended November 28, 2009, and for the most recent four-week period surrounding Valentine's Day 2009 (four weeks ended February 21, 2009):

  • Honey. Dollar sales for the latest 52 weeks rose 11.8% to $307.9 million on a 5.3% equivalized unit volume (EUV) gain. For the Valentine's Day period, dollar sales were up 9.7% to $26.4 million on a 0.5% EUV increase.
  • Fresh garlic. The latest 52 weeks showed a 7.6% climb in dollar sales to $40.9 million on a 6.5% EUV rise. That upswing began in monthly increments in April 2009 and has continued since at a double-digit rate.
  • Almonds. Dollar sales for the latest 52 weeks surpassed the half-billion dollar mark, up 9.8% to $532.8 million on a 15.1% EUV jump. While the four-week period surrounding Valentine's Day was also strong - a 7.5% dollar sales rise to $39.3 million on a 9.7% EUV climb - the monthly increases since then have generally been higher in double-digits.
  • Bananas. The 52 weeks showed a 13.1% dollar sales boost to $17.6 million on a 19.1% EUV rise, and the Valentine's Day month showed a 20.5% gain to $1.3 million.?No random-weight sales were included in these figures.