Coronavirus: One-third of UK shoppers stockpiling food, HIM & MCA research finds

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Could Covid-19 panic buying lead to empty shelves? Pic: GettyImages-nanoqfu
Could Covid-19 panic buying lead to empty shelves? Pic: GettyImages-nanoqfu

Related tags coronavirus COVID-19 panic buying

New consumer research finds that one-third of consumers are stockpiling food in preparation for a major coronavirus outbreak.

An online survey of 1,000 consumers conducted by UK food and drink insight experts HIM & MCA Insight in March found 34% of shoppers are already stockpiling food in case of a major coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, 67% of shoppers are concerned in some way about shops running out of groceries due to a major coronavirus outbreak, HIM & MCA – a market insight provider owned by FoodNavigator publisher William Reed Business Media – found.

Long-life categories are most popular among shoppers, with 17% of respondents stocking up on tinned food, followed by frozen food, toiletries and dried goods all at 14%.

Government: 'Robust' plans will minimise disruption

The revelation flies in the face of UK government guidance, with ministers playing down the need for ‘panic buying’.

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told us that the government is ‘continuing to engage constructively’ with UK’s leading supermarkets to discuss their response to coronavirus.

“Retailers have reassured us they have well-established contingency plans and are taking all the necessary steps to ensure consumers have the food and supplies they need. Retailers are continuing to monitor their supply chains and have robust plans in place to minimise disruption.”

However, it would seem the public remains concerned that food supplies will be impacted in the event of a ‘major coronavirus outbreak’ in the country. A massive 88% of shoppers reported that they will stockpile food if this transpires, HIM & MCA revealed.

'Advice and communication is critical'

When asked how much they plan to spend on stockpiling, 30% said over £100 and 5% said over £500.

Retailers could well see a jump in demand for their online shopping services, with 23% of shoppers revealing they have – or plan to - increase their use of online grocery delivery due to coronavirus concerns.

Intent to stockpile reflects an anxious sentiment among UK shoppers. Overall, 84% of said they are concerned in some way about a major coronavirus outbreak in the UK, with 25% reporting that they are ‘very concerned’.

“The perceived growing threat of coronavirus is becoming more of a concern for UK grocery shoppers and this is being reflected in their beliefs and actions. Strong media coverage with daily updates on the number of confirmed cases will likely result in shoppers engaging in extreme behaviours,”​ Blonnie Walsh, head of insight at HIM and MCA Insight said.

“There is no doubt that retailers, suppliers and wholesalers are monitoring the situation closely and doing as much as they can. Advice and communication is critical in these situations to help manage shopper needs and mitigate panic.”

According to the John Hopkins global tracker of COVID-19 cases​, the UK had confirmed 280 people who have tested positive for the disease. 

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