Hand sanitizer sales up 75% in Ireland amid COVID-19 fears, Nielsen reports

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Sales of hand sanitizer in Ireland have increased by 75% in comparison with the same time last year, according to the latest four week data ending 23 February 2020, released today by Nielsen

This significant rise in sales is attributed to increasing panic buying, amid health fears around the worldwide spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19, which was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in January 2020.

The Irish grocery market has experienced a buoyant year to date and in the latest four weeks, retail sales are up 4% on last year. However, for the same period, Nielsen data also reveals that many categories are already showing growth above this average, even though the presence of COVID-19 was not confirmed in Ireland until the 1st of March.

Nielsen data shows that sales of disinfectant sprays and wipes are up 24% on the same period last year, whilst sales of soap and antiseptics are up 6% on the previous month. It looks as though health-conscious Irish consumers may also be stocking up on more vitamins and supplements, which are up 5%.

As well as the obvious health and hygiene products, Irish shoppers are spending more on cupboard staples. This includes take-home juice (17%), canned fruit (11%), home-baking ingredients (10%), pouch soup (13%), cooking oils and condiment sauces (6%) and breakfast cereal (6%). 

Overall, ambient grocery food sales – shelf-stable food – is up 6% compared to the same time last year, as well as compared to January 2020. This includes pasta, rice and sauces (up by 5%), jams and spreads (5%) and canned vegetables, which are up 7% on last year, rising to 11% compared with January 2020. Packaged bread sales are also up (7%) in comparison to last year – likely because consumers are able to store bread in the freezer for later use. 

However, there currently remains no significant uplift in frozen food. Moreover, take-home water sales remain surprisingly flat in comparison to last year. Sales in beers, wines and spirits are also not showing any significant uplift in sales – a contrast to the significant increase following the ‘beast from the east’ cold weather which hit Ireland and parts of the UK two years ago.

Karen Mooney, Ireland market leader at Nielsen, said: “As more cases of COVID-19 emerge, Irish consumers are now thinking about the immediate need to ‘stock up’ in anticipation of potential restrictions around travel to work, school or social engagements. As well as the rapidly reducing stock of hand sanitizer and other hygiene products, Irish shoppers are stocking up on essentials like toilet paper and cupboard staples like pasta and tinned foods, and we expect this to increase over the coming weeks.

“Reusable shopping bags have also increased (up 26%) in the last four weeks, as Irish shoppers are presumably filling up their shopping baskets more than anticipated. At present, retailers are working closely with supply chains in the Irish industry and are well-placed to respond, however increased demand for certain products should be taken into consideration as the concerns over COVID-19 escalate.”