Coronavirus comfort: Campbell's Soup and ... Tito's Vodka?

Shoppers are thinking ahead and stocking up on food and cleaning products just in case the COVID-19 epidemic strikes in their community. Some shoppers are taking it farther and hoarding canned goods and snack products. One of the products in demand is Campbell’s Soup.

Soup is the ultimate comfort food if you are feeling under the weather. Generations have been fed chicken noodle soup to counter the common cold and the flu. Now the Campbell’s Soup Company finds itself in need of placing rush orders for ingredients in order to keep up with the demand. Everything from soup to pasta sauce to assorted snacks is in demand because of long shelf lives. If you develop symptoms and are quarantined at home, experts advise that about a two week supply should meet your needs. It is much like preparing for hurricane season along the Gulf coast, just in case a storm disrupts normal day-to-day life, you and your family will be prepared.

Some state health departments are recommending that residents stock up on non-perishable food, over the counter medicine to treat flu symptoms, prescription medications, and sanitary products. As the stories of pockets of outbreaks in the United States dominate cable and network news reports, an increase in demand for Campbell products is beginning.

Over the weekend, a few retail customers began stepping up orders, Campbell Chief Executive Mark Clouse told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. The company had already begun building inventory for ingredients that are usually stockpiled during natural disasters, including canned soups, snacks and Prego pasta sauces.

“We’re working very closely with folks to make sure that we keep them in stock,” Clouse said, adding that “honestly before this weekend we had not seen much” higher demand.

Big chain stores, like Kroger and Walmart, are becoming concerned about interruptions in supply chains as store shelves are being emptied. Target reported Tuesday that its stores are seeing an increase in in-store traffic due to the coronavirus. As with everything else having to do with COVID-19, there is uncertainty about how long this trend in increased purchasing will continue.

Data firm Nielsen has reported that demand for some consumer products – such as pretzels and fruit snacks – was up 5-7% in January and February. Clouse said sales growth over the last couple of weeks was comparable, but that he did not know if this would continue.

“There’s no question that we’re seeing some uptick – it’s just hard for me yet to know the level of sustained need,” Clouse said. SpaghettiOs canned pasta and Swanson canned chicken are also seeing higher demand, he added.

As far as an increased interest in products like hand sanitizer is concerned, an unlikely product finds itself in the mix. Austin-based Tito’s Vodka was working overtime on social media this week convincing customers that its vodka cannot be used as a hand sanitizer. The company responded to tweet after tweet – no, the vodka is not an acceptable substitute for hand sanitizer.

What brought about that conversation? Hand sanitizer is made of rubbing alcohol. With shortages of hand sanitizers in stores, customers were asking about using vodka as a substitute. People are making hand sanitizer themselves as a DIY project. It’s easy to do and cheap, too. Why pay a premium price on store-bought hand sanitizer when you can make it yourself? Tito’s won’t work as a substitute for rubbing alcohol, though, because it is just 40 percent alcohol by volume, not the 60 percent required to kill viruses. Save it for its intended purpose.

“As soon as we saw the incorrect articles and social posts, we wanted to set the record straight,” a representative for Tito’s tells Eater. “While it would be good for business for our fans to use massive quantities of Tito’s for hand sanitizer, it would be a shame to waste the good stuff, especially if it doesn’t sanitize…”

Save the good stuff for a cocktail, don’t wash your hands in it. If you want to make a hand sanitizer at home, go HERE.