In three months, Italians have bought packaged food from supermarkets for over 12 and a half billion euro, more than 5.2 billion in March alone, with a surge of almost one fifth.
Lockdown and large-scale retail: did people panic buy? Is it true that we stockpiled certain products while ignoring others? And what do these differences in Italian consumption habits reveal? These are just some of the questions answered by the data from January to March 2020 processed by IRI for TUTTOFOOD.
Starting with the first question: while stockpiling probably isn't the right word, Italians definitely set about filling up their fridges and cupboards. In the first quarter of the year, total supermarket sales of packaged food rose 9.6% compared to the same period in 2019, adding up to a value of 12,511 million euro. And in March, when full lockdown began, the year-on-year increase actually doubled: up 18.2%, with spending of 5,240 million euro in a single month.
All-round two-figure growth
Another factor that hadn't been seen for some time: in March, a vast majority of product categories showed two-figure growth, and almost all were positive. These include +55.2% in fresh dressings and sauces, with sales totalling 54 million euro, +44.7% in pre-cooked products, for a value of 24 million euro, and +35.7% in pasta, totalling 137 million euro. Frozen foods performed brilliantly too, reaching a total of 297 million euro in March, thanks to a 34.1% increase, as did sweet spreads, which grew 31.8% to 103 million euro. This seems to be the type of comfort food preferred by the Italians in March: sweets for eating between meals were down 6.3%, but still maintained a high sales value of 175 million euro.
Over the quarter, on the other hand, sweets between meals remained quite stable (minus 0.5% but still above the half-billion threshold at 518 million euro). And this figure, combined with the 9.5% increase in sales of sweet spreads at 221 million, seems to suggest that, in March, Italians were more interested in brightening up their days at home with recreational food than worrying about the effects of enforced sedentary living on their weight.
Everyone can be a chef... with a little help
Looking again at the first three months of the year, as many as eight product categories maintained two-figure growth. In the lead again, but in reverse order, we find pre-cooked products (+21.8% at 62 million euro) and fresh dressings and sauces (+19.8% at 109 million euro). While it is true Italians rediscovered the joy of cooking during lockdown, it seems that many preferred to do it with the "help" of their favourite brands. Once again the podium is completed by pasta which, with an increase of 15.9%, reached a sales value of 307 million euro.
It is also worth noting that there was a rebound in organic products in March: while rising 9.2% over the quarter, with sales of 457 million euro, in just one month it reached 191 million, thanks to a two-figure increase of 16.7%. Lastly, in the beverage sector, with February as the last available month, sales of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, beer and wine in the Beverage Wholesalers Channel (Integrated and Consortiums) grew 3.5%, at 436 million euro, from the beginning of the year, and 4.2%, at 217 million euro, in the month.