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COVID-19 sends supermarket meat and booze sales soaring

Saleha Riaz
·3-min read
The fastest growing grocery category of 2020 was lager, up £791.9m to be worth £4.4bn. Photo: Getty Images
The fastest growing grocery category of 2020 was lager, up £791.9m to be worth £4.4bn. Photo: Getty Images

Britons bought an extra £2.5bn ($1.5bn) worth of lager, wine, spirits and meat from supermarkets in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic meant restaurants and pubs were closed for big chunks of the year and people spent more time at home. But this also meant personal care items like deodorants took a major hit.

Data from data analytics company Nielsen found that an extra £2.1bn worth of lager, wine, and spirits went through the tills. The fastest growing grocery category of 2020 was lager, up £791.9m to be worth £4.4bn. Sale of Corona lager, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR), were up by £68m, despite the somewhat controversial name.

Wine and spirits also saw massive gains of £717.4m and £566.8m respectively.

The meat category was another big winner, up £438.9m. Beef was the fastest growing product of the entire year (excluding tobacco), up £161.8m to £2bn.

That was followed by sausages, up £125.9m, and chicken, up £120.4m.

“This is a marked contrast to last year, when fresh meat sales suffered - with beef showing the biggest decline of any category,” the study noted.

READ MORE: UK supermarkets prepare for Christmas with COVID-19 measures in place

Some of the shift in habits is attributable to consumers having roast dinners and BBQs at home, plus the fact that hot school meals were on hold as schools were closed, and were replaced my meals cooked at home.

A decline in the sales of chilled ready meals was also noted in the report, with the category suffering a £74.2m slump, indicating Brits chose to cook from scratch more often.

At the same time, personal care took a backseat as people spent more time at home. Cosmetics, hair styling, toothbrushes and deodorant together shed nearly £300m.

Cosmetics was the fastest falling category of 2020, down £182.8m to £648.2m, thanks to more time spent indoors and having to wear face coverings when stepping out.

Other personal care categories to suffer were deodorants, down £47.1m to £433.2m, and hair styling, down £37.5m to £176.7m. Toothbrush sales also fell £28.5m to £260.1m.

Despite the focus on health this year, tobacco sales grew £971.9m, with £684.4m of that figure coming from rolling tobacco.

Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer publication, noted that “as many consumers are leading a more sedentary and more isolated lifestyle as a result of the coronavirus, not only have sales of cosmetics have fallen but many other personal care items too, including deodorants and toothbrushes. In our care for hygiene, we’ve perhaps forgotten to care for ourselves.”

Rachel White, retail intelligence leader, UK & Ireland at Nielsen, said the pandemic has shifted consumer shopping habits “to the extreme.”

“But with the first roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine underway, there is renewed hope of a return to some kind of normality and we will be keeping a close eye on how these shopping behaviours evolve,” she added.

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