Bakers Basco boss warns of tensions in bakery supply chain if panic buying reaches pre-lockdown levels, as possibility of second UK lockdown looms

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Paul Empson, general manager of Bakers Basco, which supplies and manages an industry-wide bakery equipment solution for the UK’s biggest plant bakers to deliver bread and other morning goods across the country each day, is warning the general public to ‘use one’s loaf’ and avoid panic buying as the possibility of a second nationwide UK lockdown hangs in the balance, to ensure demand doesn’t outstrip supply. 

In the weeks just prior and through the start of the pandemic, basket usage across Bakers Basco’s equipment pool jumped 17.8% between the week ending 22/02/2020 and the peak week ending 21/03/2020, when panic buying was at its highest, just ahead of the nationwide three-month lockdown. At the same time, dolly usage was up 16.67% in the same period.

“Looking back to our figures from the first round of panic buying in Feb/March this year, there was a significant increase in basket usage across all of our members in order to keep up with the rapid demand, having to bring more than half a million bread baskets into the supply chain in order to maintain the regular supply and delivery of bakery products,” said Empson.

“This shows the scale and impact that panic buying can have on the bakers and suppliers working behind the scenes to ensure these products reach the supermarket shop floor,” added Empson. “Luckily, our purchase strategy left us in a strong position to get through this but already we are seeing usage numbers start to creep up again as the prospect of a second nationwide lockdown hangs in the balance and urge the general public to ‘use your loaf’ and think twice before panic buying and stockpiling products. It’s a false economy.”

To their advantage, grocers made an extra £1.9 billion in revenue during the four weeks leading to 21/03/2020, according to Nielsen. But this quickly took a turn for the worse when grocers saw increased pressure on their supply chains due to strong demand, resulting in rationing rules being implemented on certain products. 

In the last few weeks, anticipating another wave of panic buying, Morrisons became the first of the biggest UK supermarkets to reinstate rationing on staple items and a purchase limit of three items of certain products to ensure they were “available for everyone”. Tesco quickly followed suit as CEO Dave Lewis urged customers not to return to a state of “unnecessary” panic buying, maintaining that there was no need to stockpile as food supplies were plentiful, as he warned of the tension panic buying can have in the supply chain. Meanwhile, Aldi’s UK CEO Giles Hurley has also called on shoppers to buy only what they need. 

“With Christmas on the horizon, a peak period for the bakery industry which puts extra pressure on the supply chain due to additional demand for bread, a surplus of equipment and a slow-down in returns, it’s important to do everything we can to keep the nation’s bakery and other grocery products on the move, regardless of a second wave. Everyone has a part to play – so stop panic buying and there will be enough to go around,” said Empson.