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An extraordinary month in Britain’s grocery

March was a month unlike any seen before in food retail in Britain. Drastic changes to how we live our lives have driven changes in shopping behaviour that left grocery retailers scrambling to adapt. As the dust settles, AHDB takes a look at what happened in a month we’re unlikely to forget.

An extra £1.4 billion was spent on food and drink in the four weeks to 22 March 2020, compared to the same period last year. That’s equivalent to an extra £21.08 spent per person, an uplift of almost 22% (Kantar).

Though reports of panic-buying were widespread, in reality most pressure on supermarkets came from lots of us shopping slightly more frequently and buying a little bit extra each time.

Over the four weeks to 22 March, households spent an average of £62.92 extra on shopping, equivalent to five days’ worth of groceries. Families with children aged over 16 spent £88.13 more than they did in March 2019, likely as a result of dependents returning from college or university.

A critical period for sales was between Monday 16 and Thursday 19 March. Over these four days, there were an extra 42 million shopping trips made, with 88% of households visiting a grocer.

The week began with social distancing being advised by government and ended with the closure of all pubs, restaurants and cafes. Kantar estimate that 503 million meals which would normally have been eaten out-of-home will now take place at home every week, mostly lunch and snacks

Fresh potato sales in the latest 4 week period have exceeded even the usual peak seen at Christmas. In total, 130,321 tonnes were sold in the four weeks to 22 March, an increase of 26.6% compared to the same period last year, adding £17.9 million in spend.

Although volumes increased for baking and new potatoes, the majority of growth came from maincrop potatoes where volumes were up by a third on last year.

There was also evidence of significant uplift in processed potato categories. Sales of chilled potato products grew by almost a fifth compared to March last year, while volumes of frozen potato products sold increased by over 30%. With freezer space now at a premium, this peak is unlikely to be sustained.

Read the full report on the AHDB website here

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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