As panic buying dies down, Florida reaches for baking supplies

Flour might be the new toilet paper during the latest wave of COVID-19 shopping.
Stuck at home, people are making more bread and driving up flour sales.
Stuck at home, people are making more bread and driving up flour sales. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times (2013) ]
Published April 3, 2020

Experts tracking grocery sales say panic buying is dying down, but that doesn’t mean the store will have the item you’re looking for — especially if it’s flour.

Baking items may become the new toilet paper for shoppers dealing with COVID-19. Nationally, the sale of flour is up 154 percent and baking mixes are up 99 percent, according to data from St. Petersburg-based Catalina Marketing. The firm’s data compares sales from grocery and convenience stores year over year during the week ending March 28.

Last week, shoppers made fewer trips than they did last year and the week before. But they’re spending about 31 percent more per trip than they would have a year ago. As public officials advise people to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic, it appears shoppers are trying to stock up and make fewer trips.

Related: Since when is everyone so into making bread?

Catalina’s data shows Florida is among the states with the highest number of baking supplies and flour sales. That trend has been growing the last couple of weeks as people staying home attempt to fill their time. Floridians are spending about 115 percent more on baking materials per shopping trip than they did this time last year, according to Catalina.

Meantime, Florida’s candy sales are taking a bit of dip — an unusual trend right ahead of Easter.

“There may be a couple reasons for this,” said Marta Cyhan, chief marketing officer with Catalina. “With Floridians starting to shelter and work from home later than some other states, they may have been more focused on first stocking their pantries with other items that are considered more essential. The fact that there will likely be fewer extended family gatherings and smaller Easter egg hunts this year could also be a factor.”

The top three shopping categories with the greatest increase based on sales growth nationwide are flour, baking mixes and household cleaners. Cleaners are up 102 percent.

The number of greeting cards sold has gone down by more than half. Chewing gum and beauty products are also down, according to the data.

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