That aroma in homes across India is food cooking in the kitchen

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani, Vishwanath Kulkarni |Vishwanath Kulkarni | | Updated on: Mar 21, 2020

Sales of staples and ingredients have shot up with families choosing to play safe and consume home-cooked food

Social media is abuzz. Not just with information on the Covid-19 outbreak, but also on the after-effects of social distancing. From the frustration of poor connectivity and broadband to hopelessness around this uncertainty, and from humorous takes about having to spend hours with spouses and children to the anger around hoarding and panic-buying of staples, families and communities are trying to cope as best they can. But as families huddle together and stock up on staples, they are also increasingly turning to home-cooked food, a trend reflected in the spike in sales of staples and food ingredients.

“We anticipate that as consumers adopt social distancing norms and keep away from eating out, they will try to find solace in home-cooked food. With families staying at home and working from home, in-house consumption will see a spike in staples in the coming days. We are already seeing consumers stocking up on staples in key cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru due to the coronavirus outbreak,” said Ajay Motwani, Head, Marketing, at Adani Wilmar Ltd, which sells a range of staples, including edible oils, sugar, pulses and rice among others. He said that the company has increased the frequency of deliveries of stocks across channels to cope with this rising demand.

Another senior executive with a leading FMCG firm stated that new players are expected to venture into the staples business as the coronavirus outbreak is expected to make consumers increasingly turn to the safety of home-cooked food during these uncertain times.

A permanent change?

An insight note by Bain & Company on the actions CEOs need to take now advised them to get ready for changes in consumer behaviour. “Customers will change some behaviours permanently, accelerating prior trends; bold action now can set you up for success through the downturn and beyond," it added.

As more people have started working from home over the past few days, the business of restaurants and institutional caterers has taken a hit. “We have experienced a significant decrease in sales because of a shutdown in Karnataka,” said Sanjay Kumar, CEO and MD, Elior India, a contract caterer that serves large corporates, including IT firms in cities such as Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad. Elior India is the subsidiary of French major Elior Group, the fourth largest global contract caterer.

“We assume the shutdown will continue for some time, until clarity on whether there has been local community transmission is provided. At this point we see almost half of our business being impacted because of the shutdown,” Kumar said. He attributed the dip in sales to corporates opting for the work-from-home system as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus.

The National Restaurants Association of India, which represents over 5 lakh restaurants, has asked its members to suspend operations till March 31, keeping in mind the safety of its employees as well as guests. This comes at a time when a large number of State and local governments have asked malls, pubs, discotheques and spas, among other places, to suspend operations. The Delhi government on Thursday said all restaurants will be shut for dine-in, while allowing takeaways and home delivery.

Stocking up

The measures taken to curb the spread of the virus have indirectly resulted in a spurt in sales of staples as consumers are stocking up. It has been reported that online and offline sales of groceries and staples through neighbourhood provision stores and super markets has witnessed an increase over the past few days.

E-commerce platforms are witnessing a surge in groceries and staples as well as immunity boosting products. “We have observed an increase of 80 per cent in groceries and staples in the last few days. Not only this, immunity boosting items such as honey and ayurvedic products, like chyawanprash, have also seen a growth of 60 per cent,” said Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder and CEO at Grofers said.

A spokesperson for Walmart said the company has also witnessed spike in sales of a few staples and processed foods in addition to personal care and hygiene products.

Published on March 21, 2020
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