When It Comes to Stocking Up for the Coronavirus, Don’t Forget the… Oat Milk?

updated Mar 5, 2020
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The Costco lines are long, the drugstore shelves are empty: as the U.S. prepares for an explosion of cases of the COVID-19 pandemic, shoppers are stocking their houses for the possibility of having to hunker down for weeks at home. Part of that process includes stocking up on the essentials like hand sanitizer, soap, and toilet paper, and pantry staples like dried beans and rice that will keep for a long time, but also, reports Bloomberg, folks are grabbing a few specific “nice-to-haves” for their “pandemic pantries,” including weirdly large amounts of oat milk.

The information comes from a Nielsen investigation looking at the increase in sales by dollar amount for the week leading up to February 22nd, and the highest — by miles — is oat milk, which was selling more than 300% more than usual. It’s enough more that it seems a little suspicious, especially given the oat milk supply chain issues in the past, though without further information, we just have to assume people really don’t want to have to go long periods of time without their shelf-stable dairy alternatives.

Other food items that went up included some of the obvious, like dried beans, which increased by 10%, but also some odd choices, like fruit snacks (12.6%) and pretzels (9%). Interestingly, energy beverages also saw a 10% increase, which tracks with the oat milk (mainly used for coffee), in that people seem to feel it’s going to be really important to stay awake while they’re not leaving their houses.

When it comes to produce, the study doesn’t mention any new shifts in the $1.18 billion in average weekly sales of fresh fruits and vegetables, but does show that frozen fruit went up 7% and suggests that people will likely go for those and shelf-stable (canned or dried) versions in the coming weeks. Nielsen mostly highlighted these issues in looking at how stores will manage to stock enough inventory.

Of course, if you’re going to be home you may have all the time in the world, so you could just stock up on rolled oats and make your own oat milk.