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Will Ongoing COVID-19 Prompt More Food Stockpiling?

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In March, the COVID-19 onset packed eight years of projected sales growth at grocery stores into one month, with oranges still a big seller. (pixel2013/Pixabay)
In March, the COVID-19 onset packed eight years of projected sales growth at grocery stores into one month, with oranges still a big seller. (pixel2013/Pixabay)
 By Roz Brown - Producer, Contact
October 28, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. -- America had never seen the type of disruption to its food supply chain experienced by grocery stores until the onslaught of COVID-19, but experts don't expect it to happen again -- even if folks stock up for winter.

Anne-Marie Roerink, founder and principal of 210 Analytics, tracks grocery sales and said the second week of March saw a spike in sales of bleach, Lysol, thermometers and toilet paper. However, the last two weeks of March saw people buying food staples, some of which might be surprising.

"We see the same exact thing during hurricanes, blizzards," she said. "For whatever reason, I think it goes back to one of those base needs, right? You want milk, you want Pop Tarts is another one, for whatever reason."

Roerink said meat sales nearly doubled in the spring and people also bought canned fruit and vegetables, although sales of fresh produce now are back to normal. She said there continues to be a big run on cleaning materials and disinfectant products.

The supply chain hasn't broken down since early in the pandemic, but Roerink noted that people have continued to spend more money at the grocery store since mid-March.

"Those were the biggest weeks that grocery has ever seen, and so this was the entire country," she said. "And it didn't matter what region, if it was cities or rural, everybody was in the store and virtually every shelf in the store was empty."

Roerink said oranges continue to be some of the most popular items, since people attempt to build up their immune systems to ward off COVID-19. Because many can't or won't go to restaurants, she said, they're cooking more at home than pre-pandemic.

"We continue to see that people are not in stores as often as they used to be," she said, "but when they are in store, they buy a whole lot more."

According to Coresight Research, online grocery sales also could surge 40% by year's end, due to nationwide concerns about COVID-19.

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