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Retail Insights

Flour Shortages

Convenience retailers and shoppers are being creative in finding solutions to the flour shortage caused by the virus lockdown.  As we have been made aware in the national media, there is a flour shortage in UK supermarkets. Farming UK notes that the cause is not a lack of flour in the mills – they have been working around the clock – but a lack of small retail packs that is causing the shortage. Most flour is delivered in tankers to large producers, or in 16kg or 25kg bags to smaller bakeries.

Home baking is on the rise as those stuck at home spend time in their kitchens, educating children in home economics and sharing lockdown-recipes online.

Baking at home
The sudden increase in demand in domestic usage means millers weren’t prepared for an urgent switch from large bags to smaller retail packs. Production line filling techniques require specific packaging to fit the setting for the machines - it isn’t as simple as sourcing any bag and filling it.

The subsequent shortages on the shelves of the major retailers have encouraged creativity amongst UK shoppers; where their regular supermarket has run out of flour, people have widened their search to include specialist Asian supermarkets, wholesalers, farm shops and convenience stores. Consequently, local stores have been in a great position to provide for local customers who might normally have driven to a larger store. This additional spending in stores showed on 23rd March with sales on plain and self-raising flour up by 829% and 830% respectively. Some retailers have sourced flour from their local bakery and have begun to sell it by weight in customers’ own containers.

Home baking is not the only option for those fearful of running low on bread; semi-baked products have an increased shelf-life, are effort-free to cook, and still fill the kitchen with a wonderful, freshly baked aroma. With an increase of 4,248% in sales at the end of March, shoppers have clearly been taking advantage.
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