Food wraps and bags lose their grip

Articles
May 10, 2011

Food wraps and bags lose their grip

A $4 billion category skids the past two years, as consumers tighten their spend on food-wrap materials and bags.

To be sustainable and economize, it appears that households prepare meals, dispose waste and store leftovers using less food-wrap materials and bags than before. If so, consumers might repurpose bags in which they transport groceries, and reuse bags made to pack meals on the go. Some also opt for rigid plastic and glass food storage containers over disposable wraps and papers.  

If these are the reasons for the two-year category decline, retailers will continue to be hit in both sales dollars and margins. Dollar sales of food-wrap materials and bags rang up a bit under $4 billion in 2009, but dropped about 10% since then to stand at $3.61 billion in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart), according to Nielsen data.

Specifically, the category’s 3.4% dollar sales dip in the 52 weeks ended April 16, 2011 followed a 6.1% drop a year earlier.  These drops occurred on successive declines of 2.2% and 3.6% in equivalized unit volume.

Since store brands represent significant share in 11 of the category’s 12 segments, retailers feel this decline in margins too. Only the oven bags segment is practically all branded (99.7% share of dollar sales). The rest range from plastic wrap (23.2% store-brand share) to paper bags (92.3% store-brand share), with most in the 20s to 30s percent range.

In cooking segments:

  • Dollar sales of oven bags fell by 3.1% and 3.9% in the most recent 52-week periods to reach $57.8 million.
  • Dollar sales of aluminum foil slid by 2.1% and 6.9% in the two latest years to stand at $602.3 million.
  • Dollar sales of wax paper rose by 4.4% a year ago, then fell by 3.3% to $30.6 million in the most recent 52 weeks.

In meal packing segments:

  • Dollar sales of paper bags edged up 0.2% a year ago, then fell 5.5% to $24.4 million in the latest 52 weeks.
  • Dollar sales of sandwich bags dropped 1.8% a year ago, then rose by 2.4% to $334.2 million in the most recent 52 weeks.

In food storage segments:

  • Dollar sales of food storage bags moved down by 4.3% and 6.2% in the two most recent 52-week periods to reach $437.1 million.
  • Dollar sales of freezer bags declined by 1.4% and 5.0% in both of the most recent 52-week periods to $355.4 million.
  • Dollar sales of plastic wrap plummeted by 20.6% a year ago, and slid again by 4.3% to $137.5 million in the latest 52-week period.

In waste and lawn disposal:

  • Dollar sales of tall kitchen bags fell 7.7% a year ago, and rebounded slightly by 0.5% to $987.6 million in the most recent 52 weeks.
  • Dollar sales of trash/trash compactor bags dropped by 10.4% a year ago, and by 6.5% to $430.5 million in the latest 52-week period.
  • Dollar sales of waste bags were down 6.7% a year ago, but rose by 4.0% to $78.7 million in the most recent running 52 weeks.
  • Dollar sales of lawn & leaf bags declined 10.9% a year ago, and 6.3% in the latest 52 weeks to reach $129.2 million.

Equivalized unit volume was down for every segment except sandwich bags in the most recent 52 weeks.