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COVID carb-loading: Average household has stocked up on 2-3 months’ worth of pantry staples

The average Australian household as stocked up on enough essential food supplies to last them two to three months, according to research company Nielsen’s Homescan report.

The report revealed that volume sales for long shelf life meals, bread mix, rice, flour and pasta more than doubled in the four weeks ending March 22, compared to the same period in 2019, as the Government imposed further restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Our recent analysis highlights some clear themes in consumer behaviour we can expect to see over the next few months. More time at home will give rise to more cooking and baking from scratch as consumers find creative ways to use up their pantry staples; but an increase in sales for convenient meal options also cater to smaller person households or those that are juggling the various demands of working from home and home schooling,” Bernie Hughes, managing director, Nielsen Connect – Pacific, said.

The average Australian household has enough rice for 65 days, pasta to last 63 days and noodles to last 55 days.

More people are opting to cook at home during this time and are changing up their usual dishes. Nielsen Digital Content Ratings data showed that on the last weekend of March, consumers spent 71 per cent more time online watching food and cooking content compared to the last weekend of February. They also spent the most time on food and cooking sites in all of 2020 on Sunday March 29 with a combined total of 63,555 hours spent on these websites.

Nielsen Homescan data also revealed that Australians are now more adventurous with their cooking ingredients, using more Asian and Indian ingredients, up 126 per cent and 187 per cent respectively in terms of volume sales.

Baking goods also saw an increase in key ingredients such as flour (+156 per cent) and sugar (+64 per cent). During the past four weeks, Australians stockpiled enough flour to last approximately 65 days, while bread mix volume sales have more than doubled (+170 per cent).

“We anticipate that shoppers will begin to think more creatively about how they cook over the next few weeks. With popular cooking shows already adapting to feature recipes and tips for making the most of old cupboard staples; shoppers will begin to use up some of the canned goods they’ve accumulated alongside the pastas, rice and grains they’ve stocked up on – hopefully alleviating the demand for some of these things in supermarkets,” Hughes said.

Sales of quick-and-easy meal solutions, including prepared meals, canned vegetables, canned soup, pasta and sauce also increased. Soup had already sold nearly one-quarter of its annual volume by the end of March.

Some products were negatively affected such as single-serve yoghurts and energy drinks as consumers spend more time working and schooling from home.

Since toilet papers and hand sanitisers are pretty much sold out in supermarkets and online stores, shoppers are now stockpiling other household products, including general cleaners, disinfectants and dishwashing detergent. Disinfectant sales lifted 102 per cent on a year-over-year basis.

“Consumer habits tend to change over time, but the COVID-19 outbreak is forcing Australian consumers to reconfigure their lives, their habits and their spending patterns at a speed and scale we have never seen. With households now in lockdown and experiencing what it means to have restricted movement, limited access to physical stores and an expanded reliance on digital connectivity, it is important to continue to monitor these trends as we adjust to a new normal,” concluded Hughes.

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