Consumer Staples

Hair dye, cookie dough and canned meat — what people in the US and Europe are buying in lockdown

Key Points
  • People are no longer hoarding toilet paper and pasta and instead are buying beauty and baking products, according to IRI data.
  • There are marked country differences: U.S. frozen cookie dough sales are up 454% year over year, while in Italy, brewer's yeast purchases rose sharply.
  • In Germany, cleaning products saw the fastest year-over-year growth.
A shopper prepares fill his cart at a Giant supermarket in Washington, DC, April 6, 2020.
Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Lockdown life looks very different depending on where you are in the world.

When widespread restrictions were imposed globally in response to the coronavirus pandemic last month, people started stockpiling goods. Psychologists told CNBC that people were panic-buying to feel more in control of their emotional states.

Now, instead of hoarding toilet paper and pasta, consumers' buying habits have changed. Sales of goods like brewer's yeast, beauty products and egg substitutes are going through the roof — but new data reveals that different nations have very diverse habits.

It seems that Italians are tending to their appearance and making their own alcohol. Germans are cleaning their homes. Americans are enjoying a classic food favorite — cookies baked with ready-made dough, according IRI's point-of-sale data for in-store and online sales. The company tracks sales in the U.K., U.S., France, Italy, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, Greece and the Netherlands and the figures are for the week ending April 5.

In Italy, sales of brewer's yeast saw the highest increase of any product in the country versus a year ago, up 282% according to the data. Alcoholic drinks sales also rose sharply. 

Italians are buying food ingredients, too, with lard sales up 218% and purchases of flour, mascarpone, pastry ingredients and oranges also rising. People also wanted to look good while they cooked — sales of hair colorants increased 148% as hair salons remain closed. Italy is set to start easing lockdown measures from May 4, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Tuesday.

How businesses are adapting their marketing strategies to survive lockdown
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In sharp contrast to the Italians, Americans seem to be turning to processed food in droves, with frozen cookie dough sales increasing by 454%. Frozen pizza kits went up 243% while pizza crust mixes also rose by more than 100%. Other popular items included egg substitutes, dried yeast and reduced-calorie soft drinks. Cleaning products were also popular, with disposable gloves and trash-can deodorizers seeing significant sales increases.

The French have also turned to baking, with sales of yeast up 175%, the highest gain of any product in the country. Flour, dessert and canned tomatoes were also popular, as well as cleaning products. Bleach sales were up 78% and bath soap purchases went up 65%. French officials extended the country's lockdown by at least three weeks from Sunday. 

In Germany, the products with the highest growth were home cleaners, cleaning wipes and household gloves, perhaps a precursor to lockdown restrictions being tentatively lifted on Monday. Germans were also keen to buy hand cream, yeast, chilled fresh dough and potato products, with dried potato dumplings seeing a 74% increase in sales. 

In the U.K., sales of baking products had the highest increase, at 49%, with canned meat, pasta and noodles also seeing rises. Sausage sales also increased, perhaps due to people barbecuing as the country enjoyed warm weather. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is acting in place of Boris Johnson while the prime minister recovers from Covid-19, has extended the lockdown to around May 7.

Correction: An earlier version misstated Rabb's title. He is foreign secretary.