NEW DELHI: India’s struggling FMCG industry, which was grappling with a consumption slowdown, received a boost in February, thanks to the Covid-19 scare that prompted people to indulge in panic-buying of essential commodities, including hygiene products.
While sales of hygiene products such as hand sanitisers, floor cleaners and toilet cleaners shot through the roof, the overall FMCG category, including food and non-food items, witnessed a value growth of 8% in February over the same period last year. The preceding months November, December and January saw the overall category grow by 6%, 5% and 5% respectively, according to market research company Nielsen.
“Indian FMCG Industry growth rate has been on a downward trajectory for the last three quarters, it is only in the month of February 2020 that we saw a flattening of growth trend. The fact that it is a leap year and February had one extra day cannot be overlooked,” said Prasun Basu, president-South Asia for Nielsen.
The company divided the current pandemic situation into six thresholds, including, ‘pantry preparation’, ‘quarantined living preparation’ and ‘restricted living’ that map consumer behaviour or buying patterns according to ongoing developments. For instance, when consumers move into the quarantined living preparation stage, there is increased online shopping, a decline in store visits, rising out-of-stocks and a strain on supply chain.
“As we saw that parts of India had entered into the third and fourth threshold of consumer behaviour in March, it was reflected in buying behaviour around ‘pantry preparation’ and ‘quarantined living’ stages. This included heavy-buying of staple food categories, such as, packaged wheat flour (atta) and packaged pulses. Likewise, we saw significant growth in indulgence foods categories as well,” said Basu.
Similarly, there was a huge surge in consumer pickup witnessed for precautionary products like cough syrup in the 30-day period ending mid-March. Likewise, 91% consumers said during a lockdown, they would stock up on hygiene products, followed by cleaning products (74%), grocery essentials (67%), fruits & veggies (64%), personal care (61%), biscuits & chocolates (56%) and OTC medicines (52%).
When asked how the FMCG category will pan out after the lockdown, Basu said, “You will see skyrocketing sales of certain categories and they will be trading it off with other categories. You will see high growth, low growth and de-growth across categories. That’s what we see happening in the month of April and some of May as well. On the other hand, as we come into the new normal, people will try to make up for the lost ground and that’s where you may see some acceleration coming in. Also, there may be some small-ticket indulgence categories that may pick up due to the stressful times.”