FMCG Sales Are a Mixed Bag Heading Into the Back-to-School Season

FMCG Sales Are a Mixed Bag Heading Into the Back-to-School Season

The second week of August was a big week for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) in the U.S. In fact, aside from sales during the week of Independence Day, brick-and-mortar sales during the week reached a summer high of nearly $15.9 billion and over 5 billion in units sold.

Across the U.S., many shoppers are in the midst of the back-to-school season. And sales growth across food categories that are popular for school lunches, like beverages (+9%), lunch meat (+5%), prepared foods (+4%), and salty snacks (+3%), drove this week’s strong performance. But while many grocery goods performed well this week, Nielsen’s Friday morning data for the week ended Aug. 11, 2018, shows that back to school shopping has been a bit of a mixed bag for categories across FMCG.

Dollar sales across all of brick-and-mortar FMCG are $411 million above this time last year, a 3% increase. But as seen throughout this summer, inflation is driving these dollar sales gains, as slowness in unit volume consumption (+0.1%) persists. For as many as 106 Nielsen-tracked categories, this week has seen the highest average prices year-to-date.


Despite a strong sales week overall and with many students having already bid adieu to summer vacation, the week ended Aug. 11, 2018, has been a slow start to school supply sales in stores. Compared to the same week last year, sales are down for school and office paper, pencils, pens, personal binders, planners and folders, and erasers. With more digital tools making their way into classrooms, this is likely driving some of the decline. But as the back-to-school period unfolds, we will continue to monitor impacts.


While many traditional back-to-school items are struggling to maintain sales reached a year ago, the picture is brighter when we look in the pantry. Snacks are a popular schooltime staple, and Nielsen reference data helps to shed some light on the small format snacks making waves this back-to-school season.

While salty snacks, on the whole, are up 3% this week, performance shines even brighter when we hone in on just those that are packaged in portions of 3.5 ounces or less. Salty snacks in these smaller formats are up over 7% in sales compared to this week last year. Key variants leading sales for this individual-sized salty snack frontier are meat snacks, potato chips and cheese snacks.


During the school year, and even beyond, sandwich bread is a key component to lunch and breakfast for many families. During the week ended Aug. 4, 2018, sales of sandwich bread were up 1% from the same time last year, reaching nearly $142 million. While white bread represented the largest share of sales during the week, up nearly 2% in dollar sales, sales growth varied for breads with grains and seeds. In fact, sales are up for sandwich bread claiming to contain quinoa (+13%) and spelt (+15%), while dollars have declined among those with claims of flax/hemp (-7%) and chia (-13%).

Data for this article was made possible by Nielsen Friday morning data delivery, the earliest FMCG market read available. Learn more about Friday morning data delivery.