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Coronavirus pandemic spurs a chocolate and frozen pizza sales boom in America: Nestle USA CEO

The cupboard isn’t just stocked up with Spam as Hormel’s CEO recently told Yahoo Finance, but another comfort food — good old-fashioned chocolate bars, baking ingredients and frozen pizzas.

“I think as you look across all of the categories, we are seeing really big increases,” Nestle USA Chairman and CEO Steve Presley said on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade. Nestle not only makes candy bars, but also Toll House baking products and DiGiorno frozen pizza. “We have such a broad portfolio in the U.S. we see spikes across all of our businesses really with the exception being the out of home business obviously.”

Presley says Nestle’s data shows a “real surge” in people baking right now, likely as they are unable to go out to eat (or go much of anywhere).

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR NESTLE TOLL HOUSE - Guests had the chance to explore their imaginations by creating their own NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE Edible Cookie Dough bowl using a variety of toppings, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019 in New York. NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE Edible Cookie Dough is available in Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Monster flavors and is safe to eat straight out of the tub. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Nestle Toll House)
Guests had the chance to explore their imaginations by creating their own NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE Edible Cookie Dough bowl using a variety of toppings. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Nestle Toll House)

The hard data supports the upbeat claims.

Total U.S. food and beverage sales surged 50.8% year-over-year for the week ended March 22, according to data from IRI. The three categories that drove the biggest early sales increases in March include packaged foods (up 32% year-over-year), frozen foods (up 27%) and dairy (up 26%).

“From the second week of our fiscal fourth quarter to date, we’ve experienced the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 as consumers have stocked up on food and shifted rapidly to eating more at home,” pointed out Conagra Brands CEO Sean Connolly on an earnings call this week.

Connolly said Conagra is poised to outperform its prior guidance as a result of stock-up buying by consumers.

Shares of the major food players have responded in kind to the strong sales data. Amidst the onset of a bear market in March, shares of Hormel, Conagra and General Mills have gained an average of 11%.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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