Brexit fears grow, food shortages expected if UK crashes out

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

The Brexit clock is ticking for the UK government to reach a deal with the EU before the 31 October deadline. Pic: GettyImages
The Brexit clock is ticking for the UK government to reach a deal with the EU before the 31 October deadline. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Brexit European union Food Confectionery

Two thirds of shoppers expect food shortages as a result of Brexit, says HIM survey, as confectionery companies start planning for worst-case scenario.

According to new an online survey of 1,000 consumers conducted by shopper insight agency HIM​, 61% of shoppers expect there to be food shortages as a result of Brexit.

After another week of political turmoil and legal challenges in the UK Supreme Court, a no-deal between the EU and UK is looking increasingly likely, with the OECD reporting the dismal news that Britain’s economic growth could be cut by 3%,​ if that is the case.

The HIM survey has revealed 14% of shoppers have already begun stockpiling with just over six weeks to go until the October 31 deadline (when the UK is set to leave the EU).

Chocolate companies Mondelēz and Ferrero have previously said they are stockpiling raw materials in case of a hard Brexit, investing in trucks, logistics and warehouse space to maintain production levels in UK factories.

Last month, Mondelēz’s chief finance officer, Luca Zaramella, said: "There will be most likely an immediate currency devaluation on top of what we have seen these last couple of days. We will also see potentially inflation running up, which might hamper consumer confidence​.”

A spokesperson for Nestlé said: “The prospect of leaving the European Union without a deal is a real concern for us and businesses like ours. There is no doubt that it would present major challenges for our industry and we want the UK to achieve a smooth withdrawal from the EU that maintains frictionless trade​.”

Fruit and veg

Fruit and Veg is the category with the biggest concern reflected in the HIM survey, with 41% of consumers who believe there will be shortages expecting fresh produce to be affected. Close behind was meat with 28%, over-the-counter medicine with 25% and fish 23%.

Furthermore, 30% of consumers plan to stockpile products ahead of the October deadline, with tinned foods (17%), frozen foods (11%) and over-the-counter medication (10%) the most popular categories.

In comparison, only 39% of consumers thought there would be shortages in a similar HIM poll carried out ahead of the original March 29 Brexit deadline.

HIM also revealed that, prior to the original deadline, only 11% of consumers were stockpiling products ahead of the decision.

“In every difficult situation we should look for hidden opportunities, we know that nearly half of consumers believe Brexit provides a great opportunity for retailers to champion local, British products. There is an opportunity for retailers to shout about the origin of their produce and generate optimism amongst their shopper base​,” said Val Kirillovs, research & insight director at HIM and MCA Insight.

Scare tactics

With regards to overall consumers, 43% believe Brexit provides an opportunity for supermarkets to stock more British products, 42% believe there are enough countries around the world that want to trade with the UK, so food shortages will not happen any time soon and 39% believe reports around food shortages are just trying to scare consumers.

“Shoppers are more pessimistic about the outcome of Brexit now than they were prior to the original March deadline. To avoid irrational consumer behaviour, retailers, suppliers and wholesalers can work together to keep refining plans for different scenarios and keep reassuring shoppers ahead of the outcome of October 31st​,” said ​Kirillovs.

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