Food consumption pattern changes in Thimphu during second lockdown

The sale of noodles spiked in the market

The second phase of the lockdown saw a considerable shift in buying patterns of consumers in Thimphu from basic necessities to packaged food products like snacks, noodles, processed food, packaged meat and frozen desserts, according to a number of retailers.

Records with the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) revealed that almost 34,000 numbers of various types of packet noodles were sold in a week during the second lockdown, followed by 15,965 liters of milk. Likewise, retailers and wholesalers in Thimphu witnessed a spike in demand for packaged food products like biscuits and noodles, resulting in an increase in the average purchase value per customer.

“Yes, the second phase witnessed a growing demand for processed and packaged foods rather than vegetables. People are working from home. Hence, snack items, biscuits and noodles are also in demand among customers,” said a wholesaler at Changzamtok.

He said that as the restrictions started easing, customers could get easy access to daily essentials and so panic buying stopped. “Initially, customers were unsure of what the trickle-down effect of the lockdown would be. Consumers started becoming vigilant and began hoarding essential commodities,” he said, “but gradually, everyone was made aware that all essential products would continue to be made available and people would not face a shortage.”

“Currently, there is less panic buying and more need based buying,” he said.

Another wholesaler said that in the first phase people were buying basic necessities such as rice, vegetables and oil among others, but in the second phase they focused more on food items like biscuits, noodles and pasta.

“The definition of basic necessity has changed in a couple of weeks from basic foods to snacks and munchables,” he said, “Though people are not hoarding goods, they have craving for snacks and other items as they are staying at home.”

She added that as the lockdown prolonged, people were buying products which could be cooked instantaneously like pasta and noodles. Sale of frozen non-veg items, snacks and processed food have increased to a large extent.

Meanwhile, several retailers have reported an increase in sales during lockdown. Observers feel that consumers have not been very health conscious during the lockdown.

Retailers at Changjiji said due to the disruption in the supply chain immediately after lockdown was imposed, there was shortage of imported goods such as instant noodles.

“However, customers were not bothered even if their favorite brands were not available and were happy to take whatever was there. This gave a boost to our stocks,” said one.

According to FCBL, almost 43MT of rice, 5,000l of cooking oil and 3MT of various flours were sold last week.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu