After runs on essential products during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown that left store shelves and cases across the country empty, food retailers are beginning to return to their pre-health crisis stock levels.
In the week ending May 28, 68% of U.S. grocery shoppers said that they hadn't come across any out-of-stocks of the foods and beverages they wished to purchase during the week, while 32% said they did experience out-of-stocks among foods and beverages, according to the findings of The NPD Group’s NET COVID-19 Pantry & Food Strategy Tracker.
Although consumers have ceased the panic grocery shopping that was prevalent in the first weeks of the pandemic, they still maintain the same level of food and beverage inventory, noted NPD, which added that across all categories, there’s been only a 3% decline in the estimated number of food and beverage packages on hand in homes compared with early April.
Taking into account the meat and poultry supply chain problems caused by COVID-19 outbreaks at processing plants and the resulting labor shortages, 51% of the shoppers who reported encountering out-of-stocks said that they weren’t able to buy the meat or poultry item they were seeking in the week ending May 28. This was an improvement from the 61% of consumers who reported meat and poultry out-of-stocks in the week ending May 21. Pasta, rice and beans also improved in availability, with 10% of shoppers reporting out-of-stocks of these categories in the week ending May 28, versus 24% of consumers in the previous week.
Meanwhile, a larger number of consumers, 33%, encountered out-of-stocks of water, coffee, tea and juice in the week ending May 28, compared with 25% the previous week. Other categories for which a higher percentage of consumers were reporting out-of-stocks in the week ending May 28 versus the previous week were fruits, vegetables, and potatoes, rising to 25% of shoppers from 18%, and dairy (milk, cheese, dairy alternatives), growing to 17% of consumers from 8%.
“With the majority of households still preparing all their meals and snacks in-home in May and the continuing supply chain challenges, limited or out-of-stock situations are inevitable,” said David Portalatin, food industry advisor at Port Washington, New York-based NPD and author of “Eating Patterns in America.” “Considering the unprecedented situations the COVID-19 pandemic has presented over the last few months, the U.S. food supply chain has held up remarkably well.”