COVID-19: Aussie Pandemic Pantries Packed for Months

COVID-19: Aussie Pandemic Pantries Packed for Months

The average Australian household has enough essential food supplies to last the next few months as COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown laws continue to play out. Nielsen Homescan research reveals that volume sales for long-life meals, bread mix, rice, flour and pasta have more than doubled in the four weeks ending 22 March 2020, compared to the same period last year. And based on previous years’ spending, this means the average Australian household has enough of these items in the pantry to last between two to three months.

This analysis highlights some clear themes in consumer behaviour we can expect to see over the next few months. More time at home will give rise to more cooking and baking from scratch as consumers find creative ways to use up their pantry staples; but an increase in sales for convenient meal options also cater to smaller person households or those that are juggling the various demands of working from home and home schooling.


The average Australian household has enough rice to see them through 65 days, pasta to last 63 days and enough noodles to last 55 days. Given the carb-heavy nature of these categories, Australians may benefit from products and services that may help counteract any increase in calorie intake that may happen while movement is restricted.

Brands that focus on health and fitness in the future are likely to see strong demand from consumers who see a renewed sense of importance in staying healthy. In China, Nielsen research has found that consumer attitudes toward increased health and wellness have remained heightened even as restrictions have started to relax. In fact, 80% of Chinese consumers said they will pay attention to eating healthy even after the epidemic is over and 75% said they would spend more on sports/fitness in the future.


With more time on their hands and lots of carbs and other pantry staples to use up, we expect to see Australian households make more of an effort to cook from scratch and attempt to make meals outside of their usual repertoire. Nielsen Digital Content Ratings data showed that on the last weekend of March, Australians spent 71% more time online with food and cooking content when compared to the last weekend of February. In addition, consumers spent the most time on food and cooking sites in all of 2020 on Sunday 29 March, with a combined total of 63,555 hours spent on these websites.

And, to coincide with the growing interest in cooking at home, Nielsen Homescan data revealed that Australians are getting more adventurous with their cooking ingredients, with Asian and Indian Cooking items, up 126% and 187% in terms of volume sales, respectively.

Baking is also high on the homestay agenda as seen by significant volume increases in key ingredients such as flour (+156%) and sugar (+64%). In fact, in the past four weeks, Australians have stockpiled enough flour to last approximately 65 days, while bread mix volume sales have more than doubled (+170%).

We anticipate that shoppers will begin to think more creatively about how they cook over the next few weeks. With popular cooking shows already adapting to feature recipes and tips for making the most of old cupboard staples; shoppers will begin to use up some of the canned goods they’ve accumulated alongside the pastas, rice and grains they’ve stocked up on – hopefully alleviating the demand for some of these things in supermarkets.


With many families juggling the challenges of working from home, looking after young children and homeschooling, it’s no surprise that shoppers have also stocked up on quick-and-easy meal solutions, including prepared meals, canned vegetables, canned soup, pasta and sauce.

Soup is traditionally a more winter meal occasion but nearly one-quarter of annual volume has already been sold by the end of March: traditionally, this volume would not have been purchased until the end of May. Other categories, however, have been negatively affected including single-serve yoghurts and energy drinks as consumers adapt to working and schooling from home.


We all know that toilet paper and hand sanitiser are still very hard to come by in-store and online; however, Australian shoppers are also stockpiling other household products, including general cleaners, disinfectants and dishwashing detergent. Disinfectant sales, for example, are up 102% on a year-over-year basis. Consumers’ general heightened awareness of the importance of hygiene and consistently cleaning germs off surfaces will likely continue the increased demand for cleaning products in the future.

Consumer habits tend to change over time, but the COVID-19 outbreak is forcing Australian consumers to reconfigure their lives, their habits and their spending patterns at a speed and scale we have never seen. With households now in lockdown and experiencing what it means to have restricted movement, limited access to physical stores and an expanded reliance on digital connectivity, it is important to continue to monitor these trends as we adjust to a new normal.


This analysis looks to put into context the volume of grocery food and household items purchased in the 4 weeks ending 22nd March 2020. To do so, assumptions have been made on expected volume sales in this period using benchmarks from the same period during 2018 and 2019.

The estimated Average volume per day consumption has been calculated using the volume sold in the 48 weeks to 22 February 2020. This methodology does not factor in expanded consumption during the pantry preparation and quarantined living in Australia; nor does it account for a minimum stock level in a pantry prior to COVID-19. Volume per household will vary due to individual household volume purchased but this is an average for Total Australia.