Coronavirus concerns increase sales of canned, frozen poultry

Global sales of non-perishables and shelf-stable goods have spiked amidst worries about the coronavirus epidemic, leading to empty shelves at many major retailers.

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Global sales of non-perishables and shelf-stable goods, including frozen and canned poultry meat, have spiked amidst worries about the coronavirus epidemic, leading to empty shelves at many major retailers.

The 2019 strain of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has spread to more than 100 locations worldwide, including 32 states in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The outbreak has sickened more than 116,000 people since it emerged in Wuhan, China, in December. Many people have been asked to self-quarantine to prevent further spread of the virus.

Pandemic pantries

There having been significant spikes of people hoarding emergency supplies in China, the U.S. and Italy, as consumers rush to assemble “pandemic pantries,” reported market insight company Nielsen. Experts suggest that consumers stock up on a variety of nutrient-dense, shelf-stable food, including frozen meat and poultry as preparation for any quarantine measures.

Analysts at Bernstein predict that coronavirus fears will temporarily drive up sales of shelf-stable and frozen foods, including poultry. Sales of canned meat, shelf-stable oat milk, bath and shower wipes and supplements have already increased, noted Nielsen Retail Measurement Services. 

Worried shoppers have turned to online food delivery services. Instacart sales were up 10 times the average in Washington, California and Oregon, the first U.S. states to report confirmed cases of the coronavirus, over a 72 hour period ending Tuesday, March 3. The grocery delivery company recently announced the North American roll-out of a new “Leave at My Door Delivery” Feature after a “significant surge in customer adoption and opt-in usage” during the first week of March.

Costco CFO Richard Galanti called the purchasing frenzy “off the charts” in a call with investors last week. Other retailers, including Kroger, are limiting sales of some items, such as cold and flu-related products, to five per order.

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

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