When COVID-19 first hit the UK in January this year, a wave of stockpiling and panic buying hit retailers, hard. Scenes of depleted supermarket shelves were rapidly shared across social media and became commonplace in newspaper spreads.
Somewhat surprisingly, for weeks on end the most sought-after product was not ambient food or disinfectant (although they were certainly in high demand), but toilet paper.
As April comes to a close, the title for ‘most out of stock product’ finally has a new winner. According to data insight firm Edge by Ascential, tinned pasta is now the ‘most unavailable’ product across the major UK supermarkets.
Loo roll eclipsed by tinned pasta…with bakery hot on its heels
The data comes from an analysis of products in stock and out of stock in Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose for the week ending 26 April.
Concentrating on percentages of availability for 47 categories of ‘staple’ items – including bleach, dry ambient soup, frozen pastry and dough, frozen sausages, tinned pasta, and toilet tissue – Edge by Ascential found that tinned pasta was on average 38.8% out of stock across the week. This marks an increase of 5.1% compared to the previous week.
Toilet paper does, however, continue to see high levels of unavailability. It was on average 38% out of stock – up 0.5% from the previous week.
Following close behind was frozen pastry and dough (32.5%), which was up a significant 14.1% compared to mid-April.
“UK shoppers are continuing to stock up on the necessities and filling up their cupboards, with items such as toilet paper still high in demand, as well as canned produce,” said Edge by Asceintial Insight Manager Chris Elliot.
“However, with frozen pastry and dough seeing the biggest increase in unavailability this week, this indicates that consumers are likely experimenting with their cooking and baking, as we entered week five in lockdown. This product is also likely to be an alternative for consumers that were unable to source key baking ingredients, such as flour which have also been high in demand.”
Quality the ‘fastest-growing shopper need’
When selecting between brands, consumers say that price remains one of the most important shopping needs amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, research suggests quality is growing in popularity.
For the week commencing 13 April, HIM & MCA Insight – a market insight provider owned by FoodNavigator publisher William Reed Business Media – observed that quality is the fastest growing shopping need.
Specifically, data revealed that quality as a key shopper need increased two percentage points at breakfast, four points at dinner and four at snack. Quality is the third most important shopper need at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Price, however, remains either the primary or secondary need across all dayparts. As consumers adjust to cooking more at home, the firm believes their need for higher standards in their everyday meals will increase.
“Quality is becoming increasingly important to shoppers; however, shoppers don’t want to compromise on price,” said Blonnie Walsh, Head of Insight at HIM & MCA Insight.
“With lockdown measures extended, consumers are settling into new routines and cooking more meals at home. As they adapt to this, we start to see old behaviours creep back, such as a need for quality produce.
“An increase in promotions is a great way of satisfying the balance between quality and price, as well as help attract footfall from competitors.”