Despite lower gas prices leaving more money in their pockets, U.S. consumers haven’t yet ramped up their spending in a big way. December retail sales were disappointing, with consumer spending for the month recording its largest drop since 2009.
Even so, some items defied the tepid trend last year. “In 2014, our research found three areas in which consumers appeared to be very, very interested in buying,” according to an NPD Group report released earlier this year. “Smart manufacturers and retailers are responding quickly.”
Americans, it turns out, bought a lot of protein, socks and scents.
Americans are seeking to add protein to their diets. This quest is prompting consumers to change their eating habits by trying approaches such as the Paleo diet. Consumers are also seeking protein in new categories, like from enriched foods such as cereal and bread and even from high-end beef jerky. Hershey, a company better known for its chocolate and candy, saw enough promise in the jerky trend that it recently purchased the upscale meat snack maker Krave for $300 million.
Sales of protein supplements for use beyond sports also grew 21 percent in 2014 to $487 million in the U.S., according to data from Euromonitor.
“The protein craze is so powerful, in fact, that it has moved well beyond reason and into something more emotional,” NPD noted in the report. “For example, consumers say they want more protein in their diet, but some 71 percent of them also say they don’t know what the recommended daily amount of protein is.”
Socks are still hot. Sales in the category grew 2 percent to $5.6 billion in the 12 months ending in August, outpacing the overall apparel market.
The hot spot for women were athletic socks, while men focused on dressy socks. Male consumers seeking trendier and more colorful dress socks rather than just a plain old utilitarian garment are driving the growth overall.
“Guys are spending more on pairs of socks than women are, as previously unglamorous foot covering becomes a fashion statement for the image-conscious men,” NPD noted.
Maybe you’ve already smelled this comeback. U.S. sales of prestige fragrances grew 10 percent in the 12 months ending February 2014 to $285 million, and the positive trend continued for the remainder of the year, according to NDP.
Nine out of every 10 American women use a scented personal product, according to NDP, while eight out of 10 men do the same.
One big driver of the renewed interest in scents: older millennial men. Those between 25 and 34 constitute about 21 percent of all men who buy and use fragrances, found NDP.
In addition, these millennial men are three times more likely than younger guys to pick a fragrance set that includes shaving or skincare products as well.
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