Here’s What Indians Are Buying During The Virus Outbreak
Shoppers wearing protective masks and other face coverings wait in line to be served at a grocery store in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Here’s What Indians Are Buying During The Virus Outbreak

Indians went on a spree to buy not just staples and sanitisers but also cough medicines amid the new coronavirus outbreak, according to Nielsen India. As consumers stocked up on essential items anticipating curbs to counter the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, demand for consumer goods shot up.

“As we saw that parts of India had entered into the third and fourth threshold of consumer behaviour in March, it was reflected in buying behaviour around pantry preparation and quarantined living stages,” Sameer Shukla, west market leader, Nielsen Global Connect, South Asia, told reporters in a webinar. That included heavy buying of staples such as flour and pulses.

  • Sale of branded pulses through mom-and-pop stores rose 72 percent in value terms—a combination of volume and price-led expansion—from mid-February to mid-March compared with a 16 percent rise in a year earlier.
  • Packaged flour sales rose 25 percent compared with 20 percent in the previous year.
  • Online, average number of orders in a week for cooking oil rose 106 percent in March compared to February.

Apart from food items, sanitisers and disinfectants were also in high demand as doctors stressed on hand hygiene as one of the ways to keep the virus at bay. Other hygiene categories like floor and toilet cleaners also grew in double digits in February.

Value growth of hand sanitisers stood at 53 percent in February despite India having reported only a handful of coronavirus positive cases then, according to Nielsen India. That compares with 11 percent growth in November-December-January. The pace increased in March.

  • Sale of hand sanitisers through neighbourhood stores jumped 144 percent from mid-February to mid-March period, twice the pace of growth in the previous year.
  • Liquid handwash sales jumped 42 percent during the period compared with 28 percent last year.
  • Through e-commerce, average number of orders in a week for hand sanitisers surged 15 times over February in March.
  • For face masks, the average number of orders online in a week jumped fivefold month-on-month in March.

“With increasing preventive mindset, categories like cough syrups, gloves and masks have witnessed high growth in the first two weeks of March,” Shukla said. “Our retailer survey shows that most retailers are anticipating shortage and price hike for categories like gloves and masks amidst increasing demand.”

FMCG Growth Rebounds In February

The growth of the fast-moving consumer goods sector rebounded in February, partly also because of one extra day since it was a leap year, according to Nielsen India.

The FMCG industry’s value growth stood at 8 percent in February compared with 5 percent in January. That came during an ongoing slowdown in the economy as demand for consumer goods slowed for three straight quarters.

  • Value growth of the food category was 10 percent in February compared to 7 percent in January.
  • The non-food category grew at 5 percent compared to 1 percent in the previous month.

Nielsen India expects demand for FMCG products to remain strong in March because of panic buying.

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