A slow start to the month for free-buy trade, has left a feeling of the ‘January blues’ across many sectors. Packers continue to meet demand primarily on contract, not unusual for January trade, but seemingly more emphasised than usual. With restrictions tightened across the UK, chip shop trade is described as ‘hand-to-mouth’ as the uncertainty of changing policy makes future planning difficult. January is usually a quiet month for the chipping trade though so normality by Easter is what’s really required.
Trade remains relatively strong as we progress through the month, though the majority of this trade is fulfilled on contract and free-buy demand remains stagnant. Consumers are once again required to stay at home for a third lockdown, channelling demand to retailers. As opportunities to eat out-of-home are curbed, there is an anticipation of rising consumer demand as seen in the first lockdown. The uplift isn’t to the same extent as first-time round, with panic buying habits not present, but strong demand will likely continue.
The bags trade has reportedly been very slow this week. Though January is expected to be quiet, new restrictions have played on consumer confidence and seemingly reduced chip shop footfall. With a lack of certainty in whether restrictions may be tightened even further, demand is described as ‘hand-to-mouth’ as forward planning becomes difficult. Recent announcements from Scottish government have heightened this concern. There have been some fry quality issues emerging this week, with quality reportedly dipping since Christmas. This is at a relatively minor level at the moment, but will be one to watch. Takeaways and chip shops are better prepared than they have been before to deal with Covid measures imposed, meaning some volume of trade can continue unlike in March 2020. Hope remains for positive news on the vaccine rollout, to allow increased footfall in the coming months. If some form of normality is restored in time for Easter, then the bags trade will likely follow more usual seasonal trends of uplift into the summer.
Free-buy processing trade is described as slow this week, with factories working at reduced capacity and contracted material surplus to requirement in many cases. With the closure of schools, coupled with the loss of foodservice, there seems to be little hope for change in demand until restrictions are eased. Processing lines into retail markets will likely remain strong as seen throughout the pandemic, but this is unlikely to mitigate all the losses from other avenues.
Reports of disruption for export trade continue this week. Trade to Ireland for some exporters has paused due to teething problems at the border in certification and paperwork requirements. Other exporters have continued to battle through with varying levels of problems, all surrounding paperwork requirements. Trade to the Canary Islands has also been disrupted this week after problems in shipping, compounded by ongoing issues in scheduling and capacity.