The lack of movement in the lunch meat category has been one of the surprises of the recession. Survey after survey has indicated that U.S. consumers are bringing their lunch to work more often to save money, but increased brown bagging has done nothing to heat up supermarket cold-cut sales. One possible explanation is that popular sandwich deals — led by Subway’s ongoing $5 footlong sub promotion — have offered a good value to consumers who would otherwise be making sandwiches at home.
Regardless, dollar sales have been flat and volume sales have dropped 1% to 3% during each of the past three years. In 2007, dollar sales rose 1%. In 2008, they were up 2%. In 2009, it was a 1.3% gain. Not bad for a $3.4 billion category, but the slow erosion of volume still seems unusual for products that offer a great solution to shoppers looking to save money.