A year into the worst health crisis in modern history, French Champagne, chocolate novelties and tequila have all shot up consumers’ grocery lists. Current trends bode well for liquor stocks, less so for some of the early winners of the pandemic.

This time last year, shoppers were panic buying after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic on March 11. Supermarket shelves were stripped of essentials such as toilet paper, dried pasta, hand sanitizer and canned soup. Staples companies such as Lysol-maker Reckitt and paper-products giant Kimberly-Clark initially struggled to meet demand.

Today, Americans and Europeans are buying less at the grocery store overall. Data from NielsenIQ show that sales of fast-moving consumer products over the four weeks through March 21—the latest figures available—were down 10% in Europe’s five biggest markets compared with the same period of 2020. In the U.S., where so-called pantry loading was more intense, sales were down 16%.


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