More flour, less deodorant: What did people in Germany buy in 2020?

More flour, less deodorant: What did people in Germany buy in 2020?

More flour, less deodorant: What did people in Germany buy in 2020?

Almost exactly a year ago, Germany went into its first national lockdown and, overnight, supermarket shelves were stripped bare. As stories about panic-buying hit national headlines, the humble toilet roll became the symbol of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany. But according to a new study, toilet paper wasn’t actually the most hoarded product of 2020. 

People in Germany hoarded soap more than toilet paper

Sales of cleaning products, canned meat and flour soared in 2020, while makeup, deodorant and tampons took a hit, as Germany changed its shopping habits over months of lockdown in 2020. 

Toilet paper may have been the symbol of lockdown, but sales for 2020 as a whole only rose by 8 percent in 2020, Welt reports, while sales of fast-moving consumer goods such as food and hygiene articles rose by an average of 8,9 percent, according to data from market researcher IRI. 

In 2020 as a whole, there were only isolated peaks in demand for toilet paper - at the very beginning of the pandemic, at the beginning of the second lockdown, and shortly before the Christmas holidays - overall, the growth in toilet paper sales was actually below average compared to other product groups. 

Consumption shifted into the home

Sales of soap rose by almost 75 percent compared to the previous year, while bathroom and sanitary cleaner sales rose by 68 percent and household gloves by 55 percent. The other top 10 products are all food and drink items, including tinned pulses and meat, gas canisters for home sparkling water makers, pasta and flour. Sales of cheese, sausages and coffee also rose. 

“People baked twice as often in the last year, but that didn’t mean consumers went to the toilet twice as often,” explained Chris Nilius, Director of Special Projects at IRI, adding that the strongest sales growth was recorded by supermarkets and discounters, as consumption shifted into the home. 

Makeup and grooming lost relevance under lockdown

Drugstores were one of the biggest losers of the year, achieving just 0,3 percent growth for the year. This can largely be explained by the fact that sales for their most important product ranges - cosmetics and body care - stagnated at best in 2020. 

While the closure of hairdressers meant that sales of hair dyes went up - along with sales of soaps and hand gels - consumers also forewent a lot of other cosmetic products that lost their relevance under lockdown. Accordingly, sales of deodorant, moisturisers, manicure products, hairbrushes and perfume were weak. 

What consumers bought in Germany in 2020

Here are the biggest winner and loser products of 2020, according to IRI’s study: 

Biggest winners:

  • Soap (sales up 74,6 percent)
  • Bathroom cleaner (+68,2 percent)
  • Household gloves (+55,2 percent)
  • Tofu / soya products (+44,6 percent)
  • Pulses (+36,6 percent)
  • Antipasti / Gourmet foods (+36,1 percent)
  • Flour (+33,6 percent)
  • Gas canisters for carbonation machines (+28,8 percent)

Biggest losers:

  1. Fresh pasta sauces (Sales down 26,5 percent)
  2. Suncream (-26,2 percent)
  3. Shoe care products (-16,9 percent)
  4. Manicure / pedicure products (-15,4 percent)
  5. Lipcare (-15,4 percent)
  6. Insect repellent (-15,0 percent)
  7. Tampons (-14,0 percent)
  8. Glasses cleaning cloths (-13,4 percent)


Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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