Undoubtedly, the 2020 back-to-school season looks different than any other year in history. The start date for the academic year and distance learning decisions for many districts has been a moving target. Aisles usually swept clean of school supplies remain well stocked. The typical back-to-school apparel frenzy won’t happen in September like it usually does.

Still, there is one place we expect back-to-school shopping to pick up: the grocery store. In spite of the uncertainty around what the year will look like, parents are still seeking to create a semblance of normalcy for their children. They are still seeking to create an exciting and memorable experience. And one place they can do that is with the lunch box. Not only for the sake of consistency, but also for the sake of healthy routines that make a home run smoothly.

Of course, many grocery categories will look different this school year. We may not see the typical stock up on office supplies, tissues and sanitizer as families fulfill classroom wishlists, but rather slower purchasing throughout the year as households use up what they have. We may not see the same 11% increase in laundry and ironing products we saw during the back-to-school season in 2019, because re-wearing the same clothes is totally acceptable when you’re not leaving the house (or is that just us?). Plastic baggies might not see as high an increase as in past years, as fewer meals are prepared and packed in advance.

But overall — with the inability to yell “today is a hot lunch day!” as your kid jumps on the bus — we expect school lunch favorites and quick hot breakfasts to still see the typical back to school increase. If not higher.

Take a look at the CPG products with the biggest back to school increase in 2019, and check back soon for how those same categories fare in the 2020 back-to-school season.

Increased percent change in sales in 2019 for popular back-to-school CPG items. Top five items are writing instruments, school/office supplies, canned soup, hand sanitizer, and lunch combination.