The grocery cases and shelves that were left barren in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the most part, are back to their pre-COVID states. In the week ending May 28, 68% of U.S. grocery shoppers reported to The NPD Group that they hadn’t encountered any out of stocks of the foods and beverages they were shopping for during the week. This wasn’t the case for 32% of shoppers who did experience out of stocks when they shopped for foods and beverages during the week ending May 28, according to the findings of NPD’s NET COVID-19 Pantry & Food Strategy Tracker.
Although consumers have moved on from the panic grocery shopping they did in the early stage of COVID-19, they still maintain the same level of foods and beverages inventory. Across all categories, there has been only a 3% drop in the estimated number of food and beverage packages on hand in homes compared to early April, reports NPD.
Taking into account the meat and poultry supply chain issues due to COVID-19 outbreaks at processing plants and resulting labor shortages, 51% of the consumers who reported encountering out of stocks said they weren’t able to purchase the meat or poultry item they were looking for in the week ending May 28. This is an improvement from the 61% of consumers who reported meat and poultry out of stocks the previous week, week ending May 21. Pasta, rice, and beans also improved in availability with 10% of consumers reporting out of stocks of these categories during the week compared to 24% of consumers in the previous week. A greater number of consumers, 33%, reported out of stocks of water, coffee, tea, and juice in the week ending May 28 compared to 25% of consumers unable to find these beverages in the previous week. Other categories where a higher percentage of consumers were reporting out of stocks in the week ending May 28 compared to the previous week were: fruits, vegetables, and potatoes, increasing to 25% of shoppers from 18%; dairy (milk, cheese, dairy alternatives), increasing to 17% of consumers from 8% of consumers in week ending May 21.
“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,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor 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.”