morrisons aisle

Source: Morrisons

The report also claims retailers have been developing new security measures to protect against potential “looting and rioting” 

Supermarkets are “quietly delisting” products and “lowering standards” in preparation for no-deal Brexit food shortages, according to a major new report by Kantar.

It said retailers were taking “extraordinary” measures amid fears of chaos in the supply chain, which has also seen all the major supermarkets stockpiling products to try to avoid empty shelves.

The report also controversially claims retailers have been developing new security measures to protect supply chains, stores and staff against potential “looting and rioting” amid food shortages, although retail leaders today denied there was any evidence to back the claim, despite supporting most of the other key findings of the analysis.

Among the moves by retailers, Kantar said supermarkets were testing new, longer lasting varieties of fruit and veg and rejecting fewer fresh items based on ‘wonky’ sizes and shapes. Supermarkets have also been using machine learning models and research to understand how consumers will respond to difficult choices because of items being out of stock, hiring their own border inspectors to fast-track imports and hoarding temporary refrigerated container units to ensure availability.

Kantar compiled an analysis from 7,000 shoppers, alongside its shopper behaviour and retail insights data, which gives further credence to previous warnings from retail leaders about the threat of major food shortages.

Read more: One in 10 start to stockpile as no-deal Brexit threat looms

It said a large proportion of the food purchased by UK consumers was at risk of disruption in a no-deal scenario, with 62% of all fresh food imported - primarily from the EU.

Kantar said 46% of imported fresh food arrived in Britain from Spain and 22% came from the Netherlands. It also found 50% of all food consumed in Britain was imported, with 32% overall arriving from the EU.

The report said shoppers were already showing “recessionary behaviours”, such as those previously seen after the 2008 recession. It said there had been slowdowns in out-of-home eating and drinking growth, a plateauing of purchases of health food categories, more snacking and an increase in packed lunches.

It said 80% of British shoppers were worried about the price of supermarket food and drink in the event of a no-deal Brexit, while 63% were worried about clothing costs, whilst more than 30% had started or were considering stockpiling with a focus on ‘food cupboard essentials’.

In depth: Meet the Brexit stockpilers looking to build a ‘no-lose scenario’

“The decision to leave the EU has affected consumers in different ways, but it’s apparent that ongoing uncertainty is already having a definite impact on purchasing trends and behaviours,” said report authors Ray Gaul and Fraser McKevitt. “From a supplier’s perspective, there is little doubt among retailers, producers and farmers that Brexit will result in a significant disruption to the UK’s food supply, including unharvested produce and empty supermarket shelves.”

Commenting on the report, BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “This report underlines what we have been saying all along - that a no-deal Brexit is bad for businesses, bad for consumers and bad for the country. Shoppers would face higher prices and less choice on the shelves. Businesses face mounting costs as they try to mitigate the disruptive effects of a no-deal Brexit. Parliamentarians must come together urgently to take no-deal off the table completely.”

The BRC said it had no creditable evidence to suggest there was a risk of violent disturbances.

James Martin, its policy advisor on crime, said: “Retailers across the country will continue to work with police and their other partners to keep retail sites running smoothly. Even when circumstances are difficult, retailers are well-versed in providing effective security measures to protect customers and employees. The BRC and our members will continue to work with the police to do that.”