LONDON – Soaring demand for beer, soft drinks, salads and barbecue food as England supporters prepare for Sunday’s Euro 2020 final is putting more pressure on supermarket supply chains already creaking from a shortage of lorry drivers.
British supermarket groups have this month warned of gaps on shelves with demand for food and drink exceeding expectations during the month long soccer tournament, as families continue to eat more at home despite the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions on hospitality openings.
With England playing Italy on Sunday evening in its first major soccer tournament final since 1966 and millions of people across the country planning weekend parties, barbecues and get togethers, supermarkets are braced for demand to go through the roof.
Asda, Britain’s No.3 supermarket group, predicted it would sell over 45 million packs of beer and more than 1 million pizzas this weekend.
On Sunday alone it estimates it will sell 200,000 individual burgers, equivalent to 19 tonnes.
Simon Roberts, CEO of Sainsbury’s, Britain’s second largest grocer, said this week that last Saturday (July 3), when England played Ukraine in their Euro 2020 quarter final, the group sold around 17 packs of beer a second, which was 60% higher than an average Saturday.
“We’re working hard to make sure we can maintain availability but clearly there are challenges in the upward supply chain,” he said, highlighting some issues in high demand product areas, such as beer, soft drinks and salad packs.
His finance chief Kevin O’Byrne added: “You’ll find products you want, you may not find every brand you want.”
Britain’s government said on Wednesday it would relax rules this month for how long truck drivers can work, as a temporary fix for a severe shortage of qualified heavy goods vehicle (HGV) operators.
The pandemic, which prompted many foreign drivers to return home during lockdowns, and new immigration controls after Brexit have led to the shortage – estimated at over 100,000 by industry lobby group, the Road Haulage Association.
Premier Foods, one of Britain’s biggest food companies, last week called on the government to consider using the army to distribute goods.