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The unlikely winners amid COVID-19 stockpiling

close up Powdered detergents are out of stock, shortage of stock in Coles supermarket , Covid 19 stock hoarded in Australia, Sydney: 20-03-2020

The unprecedented impact of the coronavirus outbreak caught the FMCG industry and retailers off guard. The huge demand for essential goods has resulted in many manufacturers working at full capacity to replenish items on supermarket shelves.

First, it was toilet paper and hand sanitiser being stripped from shelves, and understandably pantry staples were quickly snapped up, but in recent weeks, as consumers adjust to life in lockdown, a number of surprising trends have emerged.

Bake it ’til you make it

With consumers staying home where possible, kids off school, and access to fresh baked goods limited, baking is having a moment. Instagram is littered with banana bread creations and sourdough starters, as consumers get creative in the kitchen.

Research company Nielsen found in its latest report that sales of popular baking ingredients have increased since the outbreak with flour sales up over 156 per cent and sugar up more than 64 per cent. Over the past four weeks, Australians stockpiled enough flour to last them for 65 days, while bread mix volume sales have more than doubled (+170 per cent).

“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,” Bernie Hughes, managing director, Nielsen Connect – Pacific, said.

The major retailers were forced to introduce limits on baking staples like flour, sugar and eggs, as consumers stocked up on these items.

FMCG giant General Mills told Inside FMCG that it has witnessed unprecedented demand for its Betty Crocker baking range. It is currently one of the company’s most sought-after brands.

“With families staying more, in-house consumption demand is increasing and these brands in particular speak to our consumers on that. We’re seeing Betty Crocker cake mixes and frosting increases because families are cooking more at home and baking at home is a great activity to do with their kids,” General Mills Australia supply chain director Michele Canepa told Inside FMCG.

Grin and bear it

The Coronavirus outbreak has not detered consumers from maintaining their beauty regimes, despite beauty salons and nail spas having to close. Where possible, consumers are continuing their self-care routines at home and purchasing products to meet those needs.

Hi-Smile, the brand behind a popular teeth whitening kit, told Inside FMCG that the company has seen increased interest in their teeth whitening products now that consumers are spending more time at home.

The company said that there’s still a desire for consumers to maintain “clear skin and healthy teeth for Zoom work calls or FaceTime chats with friends and family” and said for many it is important to have a self-care routine (both mental and physical) to help establish normalcy despite the pandemic.

“As more and more people are confined to their homes, our community has really come together to share how they are putting self-care first, because for us working from home also means the opportunity to whiten from home,” Koban Jones, PR & sponsorships manager told Inside FMCG.

Photo taken of the toothpaste and whitening section of a Sydney IGA store.

While HiSmile is an online business, supermarkets like the one in the image above are also noticing high demand for oral care products.


With hair salons under strict restrictions, many consumers are opting to make do without a trip to the salon in the near future.

Initially, a 30-minute time restriction was also placed on salons as part of government rules, but this was scrapped not long after coming into force.

Salons and barbers must still however adhere to the physical-distancing restrictions of one person per 4 square metres.

“It is physically impossible for stylists to do a shampoo or haircut without touching the client,” Just Cuts chief executive Denis McFadden told ABC News recently.

As a result of the restrictions, hair colour is in high demand at supermarkets and pharmacies, as many consumers opt for DIY.

Shortage of hair colour products at a Sydney supermarket

Susie Bearzi, business category manager of Priceline, told Inside FMCG that they are seeing a rise in sales for hair colour, with DIY home salons making a comeback.

“We are seeing a number of categories and brands in growth, given the change in shopping behaviour as a result of COVID-19. We’re seeing growth in hair colours, nail colour, hair removal and waxing.  We expect this trend will continue as customers look for ways to maintain their salon looks at home.”

Skincare for self-care

Although Priceline’s retail stores are still open, they are seeing “tremendous growth online across all categories”. This includes moisturisers, masks, acne products, body wash, hair care, hair removal and bathroom toiletries.

Bearzi said customers are buying these items to “treat their skin and create their own experiences”. With beauty salons closing, we are seeing the return of the ‘DIY home salon’. Skincare products which address sensitive skin or therapeutic needs are in particularly high demand,” said Bearzi.

Vitamins and skincare brand Swisse Wellness said there has been heightened interest in skincare as consumers spend more time at home.

The company, which has just relaunched its skincare line, Swisse Beauty, doesn’t expect the launch of this range to be negatively impacted by COVID-19.

“What’s happening is really interesting, we’re seeing some sub segments go really really well and some sub segments go not as quickly. Skincare, interestingly, has maintained really solid sales,” Nick Mann, managing director at Swisse Wellness told Inside FMCG.

“I guess whether you’re inside or outside, seeing people or not seeing people, people still care about their skincare ritual.”

Condom sales lift

Meanwhile LifeStyles Healthcare told Inside FMCG that they have seen an increase in demand for Skyn condoms. While staying home, consumers are taking steps to practice safe sex during quarantine.

“Yes, we can definitely see an increase in the demand of condoms in recent weeks. In the week ending 15/03, condoms achieved the highest sales week ever at A$1.3 million. The medicinal category has been ranked #1 for non-foods, since the lockdowns started, meaning more consumers shopping [in] our area/purchasing more,” Matthew Mifsud, national account manager ANZ at LifeStyles Healthcare told Inside FMCG.

He said that consumers are now stocking up on larger packs of condoms such as 20 pack / 30 pack instead of the usually popular 10 pack.

Aldo Oosterman, senior brand manager ANZ at LifeStyles Healthcare told Inside FMCG that the company is addressing the demand of consumers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Skyn is rapidly expanding its range online in Australia with new stores on Amazon and soon on eBay. [It] has also made available its premium sex toys, massage gels and new intimate hygiene wipes for online shoppers that want to keep active at home. We are also aiming to spread the message of staying at home with a social media campaign that goes live during the week commencing 6/04 to urge Australian’s to stay home and adhere to social distancing regulations,” Oosterman said.

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