From Auto Aftermarket to Waffles, A Recap of the Year’s Category News

Dec. 12, 2023
By Mike Wilkening, Communications Manager, ARC (CMA | SIMA)

What would the CMA (Category Management Association) be without spotlighting specific categories from time to time? While we pride ourselves in tackling high-level issues that impact all of our members, every week the CMA and SIMA content team also researches one category deep dive and shares it in our weekly e-newsletter’s “Category of the Week” feature. 

With 2023 nearly in the books, we wanted to take a look back at all of the category news we’ve found. 

Our three most popular categories, which we’ve denoted below, were over-the-counter medicines, which ran in April, followed by coffee (November), and snacking (February). Our fourth-most popular article was on snacks and candy (May), with chicken (August) and wine and spirits (June) tied for fifth. What does this all mean? It means we would really enjoy having a picnic with our readers, and though we might be feeling the after-effects the next morning, we would be able to find our way to the coffee shop and the drug store for aspirin.

On the flip side, our five least-read category stories were on auto aftermarket (December), fast fashion (September), CBD products (July), seafood (September), and trail mix (April). In this case, the “spoiler alert” is that you don’t like spoilers.

Below is a recap of 2023, in category trends, from A (apparel) to . . . W (wine and spirits). We’ll work on getting it from “A to Z” next year. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to research U.S. zucchini demand. 

January

Holiday 2022: Retail sales during 2022’s November-December holiday season grew 5.3% over 2021, falling short of the NRF’s forecast amid continuing inflation and high interest rates. Check out the holiday growth rates in all but two of nine retail categories, led by online sales, grocery stores and general merchandise stores. 

Fragrance : Fragrance is a key holiday category, and it appeared to outperform overall discretionary general merchandise spending during key weeks, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in 2022. Check out more stats from NPD on fragrance and beauty.  

Eggs: Egg prices hit historic peaks ahead of the December holidays, when egg demand is at its highest. Read more about supply chain challenges and avian flu contributing to the surge, and how demand is being impacted.

February

Coffee: Retail prices for roast and ground coffee rose as much as 50% year-over-year in 4Q22, as companies tried to offset higher costs. Check out more detail on historically high prices. 

Online Prices: Online prices in January 2023 fell 1% year-over-year (YoY), marking the fifth consecutive month of a YoY price decrease, with half of the 18 categories tracked by Adobe seeing falling prices on an annual basis. Read on for specifics by category. 

Snacking: While the snack category hasn’t been immune to inflation causing consumers to buy less or trade down in snack size, its decline in volume has been softer than total food and beverage declines. This has good detail on performance and trend preferences. 

March

Apparel, Fashion & Luxury: In the next three to five years, generative AI could add $150 billion, conservatively, and up to $275 billion to the apparel, fashion, and luxury sectors’ operating profits, according to McKinsey analysis. 

Produce: In the winter, FMI released the ‘Power of Produce 2023’, reporting produce department sales grew 4.8% to $74.5 billion in 2022. Check out the highlights including dollar/volume trends in value-added produce and organics.  

Seafood: Seafood department sales totaled $16.2 billion in 2022, a 3.8% decrease over 2021 as inflation raised the prices of fresh and frozen seafood. Check out another insightful category report from FMI. 

April

Trail Mix: The trail mix category is expected to grow 13% annually, according to Technav. Here’s an overview of some of the product trends in the category, which is forecasted to grow by $11 billion by 2026, according to one industry estimate. 

Retail Pharmacy: Check out this study from McKinsey which lays out how the retail pharmacy landscape has changed over the years, how consumer preferences have evolved, and how different types of retail pharmacies may respond as a result. 

Plant-Based Foods: This category grew to $8 billion in U.S. sales in 2022, up 6.6% from the previous year. Plant-based creamers particularly did well, with sales growing 24% to $645 million, per Circana. Here is a closer look at some of the opportunities and trends in the plant-based space.

OTC Medicines: In a recent survey of more than 1,000 drugstore visitors, 58% of respondents said they purchased over-the-counter medicines at mass merchandizers, compared to 49% at drug stores. Supermarkets checked in third at 24%. 

May

Sweet Onions: California’s heavy rains aren’t expected to affect the sweet onion category, but a colder-than-usual winter may have an impact on 3Q23 supply. Check out this Produce Business report with plenty of supplier insights on sweet onions, which account for about of all category sales, according to one producer.  

Plant-Based Cheese: This $2.4B category is set to grow 12% percent by 2030, and flexitarians are having a significant impact. The soy-based cheese category bears watching, too.

Hard Beverages: This is a booming category, with sales increasing by more than $500 million over the last year. This insightful playbook from Progressive Grocer and Anheuser-Busch offers five key tips on achieving success in this crowded field.

Snacks and Candy:  Inflation and self-checkout aisles are among the challenges faced by candy manufacturers, according to a recent survey from Acosta. The good news? About 4-in-10 people surveyed eat candy once a day. Salty snacks have a big share of fans, too, with 40% surveyed saying they had eaten a large bag all at once.

Beauty: Check out this McKinsey study on global trends in the Beauty category, which is projected to grow to $580 billion by 2027. E-commerce continues to be the fastest growing channel, but drug store and grocery store sales are also climbing. Another trend to watch: the intersection of wellness and beauty, a $2 trillion opportunity for brands.

June

Wine and Spirits: Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA)’s SipSource, the first and only source for wine and spirits distributor depletion data covering on- and off-premise, reported negative growth in both categories for the first time in recent memory in Q1 2023.

Craft Beer: This Reuters article explores some of the challenges faced by craft beer makers in an inflationary environment. According to National Beers Wholesaler Association data, the craft category shrank at least 15% in January through April, but it did grow 2% in May. However, it’s the below-premium category that’s really soaring.

Pre-Teen Fashion: This deep dive into the changing shopping patterns of pre-teens from Teen Vogue is a fascinating read on the past, present, and future of a category in flux. TikTok drives trends, and nothing is hotter than Lululemon. With teenagers spending billions, the stakes are high, but things are changing fast.

Tableware: Some eye-opening trends on sustainable tableware. According to Catalina data, sustainable cutlery sales fell 32% year-over-year, with sustainable bowls and plates sales falling 15%.

July

Hardware and Houseware: Is there an opportunity for hardware retailers to begin making a splash in the houseware space? You’ll enjoy this story from HBS Dealer on a Chicago-area Ace Hardware’s success in stocking housewares after the closing of a nearby Bed Bath & Beyond.

CBD: Once hot items, CBD products have cooled off with consumers, with sales falling 20% year-over-year per SPINS data. Natural Products Insider took a closer look at the future of CBD, which faces state and federal regulation.  

Keto-Friendly Baked Goods: With low-carb bakery growing 26 percent over the last year per SPINS data, the surge in keto-friendly baked goods doesn’t figure to slow anytime soon. Progressive Grocer highlighted some of the new products to hit the market this year. 

Milk: Progressive Grocer detailed how milk producers are promoting their product in the face of increased competition from nondairy alternatives. Marketing to lactose-intolerant consumers, as well as those skeptical about the taste of milk, are two areas where suppliers seek to improve their standing.  

August 

Pumpkin Spice: Happy 20th birthday to Starbucks’s now-iconic pumpkin spice latte, which hit stores last week. As fall approaches, this feature from USA Today analyzes the past, present, and future of the pumpkin spice category. Of note: pumpkin consumption was down 6% in 2022, per Circana data.   

Chicken: This look at chicken consumption trends from Watt Poultry is a good read for all industry professionals. It’s a detailed overview of new factors affecting not only chicken, but other food items, including the rise of snacking. There’s also a pet food angle, too.

Organic Breakfast: In an Albertsons/Prodege survey of 2,000+ shoppers from earlier this year, a majority of respondents ranked fruit as their top organic breakfast item. Another takeaway: about a quarter of Americans prefer organic coffee to regular. Progressive Grocer has other key details here.  

Frozen Pizza: The Institute of Food Technologists has a detailed look at the struggles of the frozen pizza category.  Sales were down nearly 3% year-over-year as of late-April, per Circana data. One cause is the rise of the ready-to-bake deli pizza category, up nearly nine percent over the same period. One bright spot for the frozen category? Cauliflower-crust pizza and related items.  

September

Menswear: Women’s Wear Daily has an excellent look at the menswear category, with insight from numerous men’s specialty clothing experts. One theme from the article: sport coat sales are strong. There’s also some good intel on the rise of activewear styling in traditional menwear’s categories.  

Seafood: When it comes to the seafood category, it’s inflation giveth, and inflation taketh, as this Supermarket Perimeter report shows. The good news is shoppers forgoing restaurant meals for prepared meals are considering more seafood options. The bad news is soaring sushi prices.  

Cereal: In this webinar for CMA/SIMA members, Answer Rocket presented on the power of augmented analytics and generative AI. In this clip, AI is used to tackle the question of the factors driving cereal consumption in 2022 – and you won’t want to miss the answer.  

Fast Fashion: The Wall Street Journal took an in-depth look at two companies capable of chipping away at Amazon’s dominance: discount-shopping platform Temu, and fast-fashion giant Shein.    

October

Popcorn: October was National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, and our colleagues at ARC’s Health and Wellness Community took an inside look at this surging category, which is expected to exceed $12B by 2028, per one estimate. There are even some great tips on how to promote popcorn in-store!  

Perishables: This insightful Supermarket News Q&A with FreshMarket merchandising executive Ali Pugliese is a must-read for anyone seeking insights on the fresh/perishables category. 

International Foods: Brands really can’t go wrong when it comes to global flavors,” says one expert surveyed in this preview of 2024 trends from the Institute of Food Technologists. One trend is the mashup of different cultures – think kimchi mashed potatoes.  

Breadfruit: Breadfruit grows abundantly and sustainably in tropical climates and has a low glycemic index. As Forbes points out, breadfruit is regarded as an emerging flavor/ingredient in numerous circles. Can it be a key player in the fight against food insecurity and start to make an impact at shelf?  

Coffee: Coffee-at-home is big business. As this Newsweek story points out, 84% of coffee drinkers drink the beverage in their living space, per a recent estimate. For coffee shops, however, the ability to make specialty drinks remains a big edge – something retailers with coffee bars can continue to leverage. 

November

Side Dishes: If it’s Thanksgiving, the turkey is the star of the show – right? Not so fast. In a survey commissioned by food delivery service Shipt, 58% of Generation Z and 51% of Millennials surveyed preferred sides to turkey. For boomers, that dropped to 43%. Nevertheless, the takeaway is clear: in many households, the sides are the mains 

Pet Food: What’s in the fridge? In more and more households, the answer is … pet food. While the refrigerated dog and cat food category is small, it’s a growing category, as Pet Food Processing detailed here. 

Waffles: Waffles are a growing and popular category, and within this category, the Liege variety has begun to gain a lot of attention among consumers and manufacturers. This excellent feature from The Kitchn has all the details on why Liege waffles are starting to take off in the U.S.  

December

Auto Aftermarket: The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) tradeshow is a window into the newest happenings in the custom car category, and Motor Trend highlights eight key aftermarket trends emerging from this year’s show in Las Vegas.  

Connect With Us! 

Want to see your category featured in an upcoming CMA-SIMA newsletter? Email Mike Wilkening at [email protected], and we’ll work to get it spotlighted!