Coronavirus Helps Canned Goods, Hurts Fresh

March 10, 2020
Fears of the coronavirus are leading consumers to stock up on nonperishable staples, while leading them away from meat and other fresh foods.

The coronavirus is good for soup but bad for beef.

That’s the effect it seems to be having, broadly speaking, on the food market. It’s leading consumers to stock up on nonperishable staples like soup and canned goods in general, while leading them away from meat and other fresh foods, all in anticipation of having to stay home and avoid contact with others.

The S&P 500’s packaged food index rose at the beginning of this month, with much of that jump attributable to nonperishable foods. Campbell Soup’s stock spiked at $53.58 on March 5 before falling back down to $50.11 today. Campbell is reporting higher demand from a few retail customers and has begun building inventory of ingredients for soup as well as snacks and Prego pasta sauces, CEO Mark Clouse told CNBC.

Cattle prices, on the other hand, are down 19% from the beginning of the year. 2020 started with an optimistic outlook for cattle because of an anticipated increase in global demand due to factors including the effects of African swine fever, which has wiped out half or more of China’s swine herd. But fear of contagion is steering people away from eating out or shopping for fresh meat, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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