Nearly 2 Years Into Pandemic, U.S. Shoppers are Still Stockpiling

As of early February, data suggests demand for most food & beverage categories is still far outpacing stock levels.

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Despite Americans’ weariness of the COVID-19 pandemic that has stretched nearly two years, their stockpiling shopping behavior that has a hallmark the pandemic’s early days hasn’t stopped. While not at the level it was back then, data from consumer data research firm IRi illustrates that hoarding of food and household goods is still considerably elevated from where it was pre-pandemic.

I Stock 1214541810iStockAn in-depth report from Feb. 7 from the Wall Street Journal cites IRi figures showing sales at wholesale retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club were still up 26.6% and 18%, respectively, during 2021’s fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2019 — far outpacing all other retail categories.

READ MORE: Data: CGP Retailers Lost Out On 7.4% in Sales to Stock-Outs in 2021 - published Feb. 9

IRi’s weekly Consumer Packaged Goods Supply Index — which a standard metric for tracking weekly changes in the in-stock rates of CPG products — showed a total CPG stocked rate of 78% on Feb. 6, which is its lowest reading of the year so far. It was down 8 percentage points from just one week earlier. Specifically, the overall reading for food & beverage categories was at 81%, down four points from a week earlier. Those figures compare with stock levels of 93% to 95% pre-pandemic, according to IRi.

For all indices, any reading less than 90 indicates supply decline, while anything above 90 indicates supply growth.

Even more granularly, IRi’s Supply Index reading was 81% for beverages; 85% for frozen food; 80% for general food; 79% for beverage alcohol; and 86% for refrigerated.

I Stock 1139422618iStockThese readings contrast with IRi’s CPG Demand Index, which — as of its latest issuance on Jan. 30 — showed an overall CGP reading of 106. For that index, anything less than 100 indicates demand decline, while anything over 100 indicates demand increase. The CPG Demand Index’s overall reading for Edible goods was at 107. Within that, beverage alcohol was at 97; beverages was at 110; frozen food was at 107; and general food was at 108. Within perishables — which had an overall mark of 108: bakery was at 112; deli was at 112; meat was at 109; produce was at 106; refrigerated was at 104; and seafood was at 93.

Those IRi indices paint a picture of demand for food and beverage products that is considerably outpacing supply. This likely means that many shoppers may find certain ingredients for their Super Bowl party platters out-of-stock.

IRi told the WSJ that 2022 CPG consumption is likely to be down from 2021, but will still double its pre-pandemic level.

“Even if somebody waves a magic wand and makes Covid go away completely, we still expect elevated consumption in the home because people are accustomed to working from home, and hybrid work is here to stay,” IrI president of client engagement Krishnakumar Davey told the WSJ.

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