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Lockdown food trends

It’s not just toilet paper. Italians are loading up on packaged mandarins, people in France are gorging themselves on chicken sausage and we Brits are stockpiling canned meats.

The Coronavirus crisis is not only changing Europeans’ social and working habits, but also how they’re eating and what they’re buying. Confidential retail sales figures from the first weeks of March obtained by POLITICO show that people living in Italy, France and the U.K. have not just dramatically increased their spending on foods with long shelf lives, they’re also saying no to certain upscale treats.

A data-set from market research firms IRI and BCG for the first week of March shows that sales in the categories of paper products, health care products and packaged food have risen considerably in all three countries. While sales are generally going up, there are some categories of products that recorded losses: in France and Italy, sales of cosmetics dipped, while people in the U.K. and Italy spent less on products classed as general merchandise.

Overall, demand for higher value products, such as wine, champagne, and fish has weakened significantly and demand for flowers has completely collapsed. Conversely, demand for shelf-stable products like rice, pasta, eggs, canned goods, long-life fruits and vegetables has risen sharply.

Sales of pasta and rice soared by more than 70 percent in France compared with the previous year. Italians stocked up on dried legumes (+61 percent that same week), while Brits hoarded canned meats (+73 percent) and soups (+60 percent). The top — and most surprising — increases in food choices for Italians and the French during this time-frame were packaged mandarins and poultry sausage, respectively, with spending roughly doubling for both.

But the biggest sales increases overall during the first week of March were recorded for those products that Europeans are using to protect themselves against Coronavirus: Italians bought 247 percent more denatured alcohol and nearly tripled their purchases of hygienic wipes, also doubling their intake of first-aid products and gloves.

The French spent twice as much on parapharmacy accessories (such as thermometers), bath soaps and cleaning gloves, while Brits also doubled spending on household cleaning and personal hygiene products.

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