Grocery spend on Irish brands has increased by 25% during the lockdown, according to new data released by Nielsen.
It finds that shoppers are spending an additional €35 million on local products compared to the same period in 2019.
The data also shows that alcohol is the fastest growing overall category.
With pubs, bars and restaurants remaining closed, the report reveals that alcohol sales increased by over 66% in the four weeks ending 17th of May 2020, reaching €140 million.
That equates to 22 million litres sold, which is still far below the 38 million litres sold at this time last year both in store and across the hospitality sector.
There was significant growth for stout which accounted for €6 million in sales, as well as cider and gin across both local and non-local brands.
Irish consumers are also opting for local options when choosing their baking ingredients, with sales of Irish produced flour brands up over 217% in the last four weeks, and Irish produced sugar increasing by 65%, both significantly outperforming non local alternatives.
The Nielsen data shows that in the four weeks ending 17th of May, grocery sales in Ireland totalled €1 billion – a growth of 17% compared to the same period in 2019.
Large supermarkets experienced the biggest growth, with value sales up 24% compared to the same period last year, whilst value sales at convenience stores were up by 10%.
As well as alcohol, popular categories over this four week period included frozen food, where sales increased by 35% to reach €19m, as well as shelf-stable food which experienced a 30% surge in demand, reaching €71m.
Karen Mooney, Ireland market leader at Nielsen has said that local shops will continue to play an important role during this pandemic.
“With shoppers less willing to travel further than absolutely necessary, many are turning to the closest local shops to meet their needs. Many shoppers are also actively seeking out local products both for convenience, as the relatively less complex supply chains has meant a wider availability of local products, but also because of greater trust in the safety of local products and the desire to support local producers and businesses,” she said.+
Irish consumers have been buying Irish products in supermarkets in huge numbers since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, with leading local brands recording growth of almost 20 per cent, according to retail analysts Kantar.
New research from Kantar, presented at a Love Irish Food conference on Wednesday, indicated that 44 of the 100 top-selling take-home grocery brands in the Republic during 2020 were Irish produced, recording growth of 18 per cent to a total of €1.07 billion in combined sales.
All told, the brands capture 48 per cent of the money spent among the 100 top -selling take-home grocery brands in Ireland, the online symposium heard.
The strength and agility of the Irish food supply chain in the face of the pandemic, and the challenges of Brexit, were also to the fore at the event hosted by the Love Irish Food umbrella organisation.
The Irish food sector has demonstrated “great resilience” over the course of 12 months of pandemic and can look forward to a brighter year ahead, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said in opening the event.
He suggested that in the face of “the extraordinary challenges of the past year, the agri-food sector has demonstrated great resilience”, although he pointed to a divergence within the sector which has seen the food service industry “experience near collapse” while the food retail sector has recorded year-on-year growth of more than 20 per cent.
He stressed that the Government would do what it could to “invigorate” the local economy and he highlighted the importance of individual consumers playing their part by choosing to shop locally.
“Every time a consumer makes a conscious decision to purchase a [locally sourced] product, this is good for local employment and local businesses all over Ireland as well,” Mr Varadkar said. “It is the purchasing decisions of consumers that matter most.”
Acknowledging the difficulties facing the food sector he said there were “grounds for optimism” with the vaccine rollout.
“Things are going to look a lot better in a few months’ time,” he said. “I know it has been a really difficult start to the year but I am increasingly optimistic about the year ahead.”
According to Love Irish Food, there has been “clear evidence” since the start of the pandemic that consumers want to support local producers.
The commercial director at Tesco Ireland, Joe Manning, pointed to “huge changes” in shopper behaviour since the start of the crisis with the numbers shopping online more than doubling over the past 12 months.
He recalled the panic of this time last year when shelves were stripped bare as fears mounted that products would be in short supply and he hailed the robust supply chains which ensured that retail had been able to deal with the crisis and meet the surge in demand.
He predicted that “more thoughtful shopping” and a continued focus on health, cooking from scratch and baking would endure once the pandemic passes.
Mr Manning also pointed to the “elephant in the room”– Brexit – which he said had presented challenges which “are here to stay”.
He said supply chain issues were “settling down” but warned that things would never be as seamless as they were prior to the UK’s departure from the EU at the end of last year.
“The contribution of Irish-manufactured food and drink brands to the local and national economies in Ireland is both vital and immense,” said Kieran Rumley of Love Irish Food. “Buying more Irish-made products helps Irish businesses survive and protects Irish jobs, which is critical in the current climate in the context of the global health pandemic and will be crucial in driving economic recovery.”+