Relax, Brits: You Don't Need to Panic-Buy Food Just Because It's Cold

Despite frantic tweets showing photos of empty supermarket shelves, the Dolmio sauce probably won't run out anytime soon.
27 February 2018, 4:45pm
Photo via Flickr user Mary Hutchison.

It! Is! Cold! Guys! The “Beast from the East” has hit the UK, bringing snow to the bits that always get snow (s/o to the North) and subzero temperatures pretty much everywhere else. And we’re all extremely stressed about it. For Britain, this level of weather hype is equivalent to that time you found out your recently divorced RS teacher was having sex with the deputy head, a.k.a. extremely exciting. The Guardian even has a friggin' rolling blog about it.

With news of the recent cold snap also comes reports that supermarkets are selling out of food as people panic-buy essentials in fear of an apocalyptic four minutes of snow. As reported in the Evening Standard today, Brits have been emptying supermarket shelves incase the snowy weather results in food shortages. The newspaper pointed to photos posted on Twitter last night that showed supermarkets sold out of goods, including one from Mark Dowling. He tweeted two images of bare shelves, along with the caption, “This is ridiculous. Empty shelves in the supermarket. Doomsday will be cold and it might snow for the day ... the end.” Another shopper from Gurney was apparently told by staff at his local Waitrose that the branch was experiencing food shortages due to customers stockpiling during the cold weather.

Metro and the Sun have also reported on supermarkets allegedly selling out of food, fueling fears that a few centimetres of snow could result in us all being forced to eat a beloved family pet when the icy trip to the local shop becomes too treacherous. But just how true are the reports that freezing Brits are desperately stockpiling PG tips and tinned soup?

MUNCHIES contacted Dowling to verify the source of the photos he tweeted. He informed us that he had in fact taken the images from a “local Facebook page” last night. He added that he had heard about the supposed supermarket shortages from the Sun.

We also reached out to a number of supermarkets to find out whether they had seen a change in customer shopping habits following the drop in temperature. Sainsbury’s told MUNCHIES that although they’d noticed an increase in sales, they had adjusted their stock levels accordingly. A spokesperson for the supermarket said over email, “We can assure customers we have prepared for the ‘Beast from the East’ and there are no issues with supplies.” Tesco also confirmed that they had seen no stockpiling due to the cold weather.

A Co-Op branch in East London also shared the view, and seemed fully stocked and devoid of violent chickpea-related brawls when we visited. “In this branch, [the weather] is definitely affecting our service,” manager Amin Uddin told us. “We are serving more hot food than we normally sell, like hot coffee. What we usually sell a lot of like sandwiches from the fridge are not selling well.” However, when asked if he’d noticed people panic or bulk buying, he said, “not really, not in this area.”

We also contacted Waitrose, the supermarket whose worryingly barren shelves featured in the original Standard story. The chain told us that the branch in question is actually located on the Channel Islands, and the reason for the empty shelves was down to issues with the ferry not completing its delivery yesterday, rather than the cold weather. They also noted that they hadn’t seen customers panic-buying food items.

Probably no need to stockpile the Marmite, lads. We’re gonna be OK.