Oat milk is particularly popular.

By Tim Nelson
March 18, 2020

By this point, even celebrities on 12-day silent meditation retreats know that the Coronavirus has turned the world as we know it upside-down. That’s involved lots of frenzied trips to grocery stores and fights over toilet paper.

While everyone’s approach on what to buy can vary at a time like this, data from Nielsen reveals the sort of things people have started to stock up on in the earliest days of Coronavirus concerns. From the look of it, consumers seem to be making some interesting choices.

For the week ending February 22, admittedly somewhat earlier on in the whole “pandemic period,” oat milk saw the biggest jump in sales compared to the same week in 2019, more than tripling sales in terms of dollar growth. That was far and away the biggest change, likely owing to the fact that it’s a trendy dairy alternative (one would imagine the growth from to 2018 to the present is practically infinite) which also happens to be shelf-stable.

Beyond that, some of the more proactive panic buyers (can’t decide if that’s an oxymoron or not) were stocking up on the sorts of things you’d expect. Dried beans jumped up 10.1 percent in terms of dollar growth, bested only by fruit snacks (12.6 percent) in terms of food products. Energy drinks also saw a 10.1 percent dollar growth, because the best thing to do while stuck at home is drink something that will likely increase your anxiety. Pretzels also saw a 9.0 percent dollar growth uptick, because hey why not treat yourself at a time like this.

The caveat here is that the shopping data comes from a time before social distancing was the norm, and grocery stores were overrun to the point that seniors needed special shopping hours. As more data becomes available, it’ll be interesting to see if and how those habits have changed as the COVID-19 threat became less abstract. Here’s hoping that the grocery stores, supermarkets, and big box retailers we rely on can find a way to keep their shelves stocked without putting any of their employees at undue risk.

 

 

 

 

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