09/12/2020 – Fortnightly round-up

As the UK death rate from Covid-19 passes 60,000, the former Chief Medical Officer for England has suggested that the UK was so badly affected by Covid-19 compared to other countries due its high levels of obesity and deprivation. Commenting on the need to change the food environment, Dame Sally Davies commented that our poor public health – whether it is deprivation, overweight, or other chronic illnesses, alongside crowding in urban areas – have led to a much increased death rate over what we could have had if we had a healthier basic population. 

Typical UK diets do appear to have been impacted during the pandemic. A survey of 5,000 consumers in 10 European countries released by EIT Food, found diverse responses in citizen purchasing and eating behaviours during Covid-19with people in the UK increasing their consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in line with other European countries during the pandemic – up 33% and 31% respectively compared with before the outbreak. However, the British were found to have experienced the largest rise in consumption of convenience foods (29%), alcohol (29%) and “tasty treats” (34%) suggesting that these may have provided a counterbalance to any more health promoting behaviours recorded. 

UK grocery retailers continue to see strong sales as the Out of Home sector was once again forced to close in November. Data from Kantar found that grocery sales hit a record high in November as lockdown II began and people started their Christmas shopping. Grocery sales rose by 11.3% in the 12 weeks to November 29th.

The food industry however is now increasingly focused on the impact of Brexit, once the current transition deal ends on January 1st 2021. A survey of consumer behaviour from Lumina Intelligence, found 6% of shoppers had already begun stockpiling food items due to fears of shortages in the new year with over half worried or ‘very worried’ about the impact of Brexit. Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation warned that Brexit may cause more disruption to the UK’s supply chain than covid-19 did, with border checks and import tariffs both key concerns. 

With a No Deal Brexit appearing increasingly likely as talk fail to progress, the Chair of Tesco forecast that the price of food could rise by an average of 5% (and brie by up to 40%) without a deal, confirming that Tesco have been stockpiling non-fresh food as they prepare for potential disruption in January. The UK is particularly reliant on imports for the majority of fresh fruit and vegetables, as this recent brief from the Food Foundation and SHEFS illustratedOne area where there has been clarification was the announcement today that supermarkets will be given extra time to phase in new checks, with a ‘grace period’ of three months, ensuring food supplies from Great Britaito Northern Ireland aren’t disrupted from 1 January – whether or not there is a Brexit deal.

View our UK Food Tracker in full.