Both regular bulk buyers and shoppers “have been purchasing much more than normal” since the outbreak began
Doves Farm said shoppers were “re-connecting with home baking out of both need and pleasure”
The Federation of Bakers said pre-packed bread and baked goods were not likely to be affected, despite demand
Supermarkets are facing a shortage of flour as locked-down Brits turn to home baking en masse.
Breadmaking has seen a massive surge in popularity since the coronavirus outbreak confined millions of shoppers to their homes.
Both regular bulk buyers and shoppers “have been purchasing much more than normal”, using up existing stocks and leaving shelves bare, said National Association of British & Irish Millers director general Alex Waugh.
Tesco was this week listing 500g and 1.5kg packs of plain flour, as well as 1.5kg packs of self raising and strong white, as out of stock – though brown, wholemeal and alternative flour SKUs were still available. On Asda’s website, some Homepride, McDougalls and Be-Ro SKUs were out of stock.
In Sainsbury’s, Edge by Ascential data showed some 40 flour SKUs from brands like Doves Farm and own-label as out of stock. In Morrisons the picture was much the same, with 27 SKUs out of stock, while 15 SKUs – primarily own label – out of stock in Waitrose [52 w/e 1 April 2020].
It comes as NABIM has seen a surge of traffic to its consumer-focused Fab Flour website, said a spokeswoman. “We can only assume this is because [shoppers] are definitely planning to bake,” she added.
Shoppers were “re-connecting with home baking out of both need and pleasure during this challenging time”, suggested Doves Farm founder Clare Marriage.
“At our end, we are working as hard as possible to ensure our organic flours are available through as many retailers and wholesalers - online and in physical stores - as we can.
“Our team is working extra hours and shifts and even taking on different roles to ensure we can keep up our output while working safely.”
McDougalls and Be-Ro owner Premier Foods’ baking category brand director Helen Touchaise said Premier was “confident there are no supply issues” and “committed to playing our part in keeping the nation fed”.
“Our dedicated factory colleagues are working around the clock to quickly replenish customer stock levels.”
Some independent retailers have been forced to look elsewhere amid the surge in demand. “All our suppliers have been overwhelmed because people have suddenly said ‘let’s make bread’,” said David Josephs, owner of Panzer’s Deli in London.
“We have a wholesale and import business so we’ve been sourcing flour and eggs from Italy and bringing it in twice a week. We’re now breaking down large bags and making them up into smaller, consumer-sized bags.”
However, the Federation of Bakers said pre-packed bread and baked goods were not likely to be affected.
Although demand from consumers for pre-baked products had risen by over 50%, “we are not currently experiencing issues with the delivery of flour and ingredients to bakeries”, said its CEO Gordon Polson.
Millers “have been working round the clock – genuinely milling flour 24 hours a day, seven days a week to double the production of retail flour in an effort to meet demand”, added NABIM’s Waugh, producing the equivalent of 3.5 to four million bags weekly by running lines at maximum capacity.
“However, production is limited by the capacity to pack small bags, so even this is only sufficient for 15% of households to buy a bag of flour per week.”