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What Europe is (and isnt) buying during quarantine

Its not just toilet paper. Italians are loading up on packaged mandarins, people in France are gorging themselves on chicken sausage and Brits are stockpiling canned meats.

The coronavirus crisis is not only changing Europeans social and working habits, but also how theyre eating and what theyre buying.

Confidential retail sales figures from the first weeks of March obtained by POLITICO show that people living in Italy, France and the U.K. have not just dramatically increased their spending on foods with long shelf lives, theyre also saying no to certain gourmet favorites.

Overall, people have been spending more in supermarkets than before the crisis, driven by stockpiling and restaurant closures.

A dataset from market research firms IRI and BCG for the first week of March shows that sales in the categories of paper products, health care products and packaged food have risen considerably in all three countries. While sales are generally going up, there are some categories of products that recorded losses: in France and Italy, sales of cosmetics dipped, while people in the U.K. and Italy spent less on products classed as general merchandise.

This change in buying habits has put enormous pressure on food supply chains, and hasnt gone unnoticed by politicians. EU agriculture ministers last week discussed whether they need to adapt policies to what they call “major shifts in consumption patterns,” according to a document seen by POLITICO.

“Demand for higher value products, such as wine, fish, flowers has weakened significantly; in the case of flowers it has completely collapsed. Conversely, demand for shelf-stable products like rice, pasta, eggs, canned goods, long-life fruits and vegetables has risen sharply,” the document said.

Heres a look at what Europeans are — and are not — buying while in lockdown.

Choosy about booze (and meat)

Sales of alcoholic drinks went up — except for France where they dropped by about 4 percent during the week ending March 8 compared with last year, reportedly driven by a slump in sales of pricier Champagne.

More granular data for Italy from market researcher Nielsen shows that what changed most was which poison people picked. Italians bought less Champagne (about -53 percent during the week of March 9-15 compared with last year). But they bought 14 percent more beer.

Leaders in Rome have been preaching economic patriotism to help buoy the countrys economy amid the crisis, and that seemed to show in the data: Italians bought more “common” Italian wine (+13 percent) but less wine from abroad (-14 percent).

The data also indicates Italians are becoming choosier about their lockdown lunches and libations.

With children home from school, sales of school snacks and pre-packed lunches plummeted. Sales of fish meals, aromatized water and cheese substitutes for vegan meals also saw declines.

There was a similar shift toward staple foods and away from more exclusive choices of meat: People bought more chicken (+33 percent) but less of pricier veal (-64 percent) and horse meat (-62 percent). Italians picked up more than four times as much rabbit meat that week compared with the year before.

Under lockdown, people also seem to have taken up baking: Sales of flour in Italy almost tripled in the week of March 9-15, as did sales of yeast.

Stocking up on staples

Dry goods were a popular choice across countries.

According to the IRI and BCG report, the data shows stockpiling started to takRead More – Source