First came the panic-buying and the stockpiling. As soon as it became clear that Covid-19 was spreading through Britain, shoppers hit the grocery stores. Everything with a long shelf life was swept into trolleys—pasta, tinned beans, bottled water. People even cleared the shelves of pickled onions, recalls Peter Batt, who oversees the Co-Op’s convenience stores in southern England. “They were thinking a wartime sort of scenario,” he says.
In the end people had plenty to eat: in late May 48% told Ipsos Mori, a pollster, that they had gained weight. Sixteen weeks after the lockdown began, though, diets remain disrupted. If British eating patterns have not returned to those of the second world war, nor are they much like those of 2019. Instead, they have regressed roughly to a mid-point between those times.