Kenyans stocked up on their favourite snacks juices, soda and alcohol ahead of Tuesday’s election, to keep busy and energised throughout the results announcement period. Others bought healthy snacks to eat as they waited in long queues to vote.
As Kenyans went to the polls, supermarkets and grocery stores reported panic-buying of essential food items from a majority of customers, but there is a group that was keen on buying crisps, popcorns or popcorn maize, peanuts, wine, cheese, chocolate and whiskeys, as they turn their thoughts to quelling election anxieties with comfort food.
Shoppers said they will be snacking out of boredom at their homes while also using the foodstuffs to keep them busy watching the election results.
“I have bought the usual essential items for the house in addition to snacks for this period. With every family member at home, including the children who are out of school, the snacks are a must-have,” Lilian Mochama, a mother of four said.
“I am getting healthy snacks for my parents and I so that we can enjoy while queuing to vote,” added Maryann Muthoni, a Nairobi resident whose parents live in Tigoni.
The General Election saw millions of voters turn out, resulting in long queues at polling stations through the day and late into the evening waiting to cast their vote.
Some companies, businesses and entertainment joints remain closed, with plans to resume operations next week, while others have asked their employees to work from home.
This week, pubs are also stocking up alcohol and selling indulgent sides of nyama choma, samosas, and sausages. Wine and whisky stores also saw an increase in number of buyers.
"I bought quite a number of bottles of wine and whisky because I intend to host an elections-watching party at my home," said Mike Kulecho, a 42-year-old Nairobi resident.
Some shoppers bought the essentials before elections because leading retail chain stores like Naivas, Carrefour, and Quickmart had announced they would remain closed on August 9.
“We would like to inform you that all Quickmart branches countrywide will remain closed on election day, August 9, to enable our staff and partners exercise their democratic right to vote,” Quickmart said in a statement. “Normal branch operations will resume on August 10 from 7 am across all branches.”
“Normal operations will resume on 10th August 2022. We urge you to carry out prior shopping to be well stocked and avoid conveniences,” Naivas added.
The supply disruptions and business closure in election years have previously been blamed by analysts for slowed economic growth witnessed. However, there are a few segments such as alcohol and food delivery outlets that perform well.
Other Kenyans were also stocking up on vegetables, fruits and meats to ensure enough home supplies. But prices remained unchanged. “Price of the meat has remained unchanged at Sh450 for a kilogramme of pork, Sh550 to Sh650 for chicken,” said Susan Irungu at City Market in Nairobi CBD, adding that customer flow was steady.
The shopping rush saw retailers run out of certain foodstuffs such as maize flour and some cooking oil brands.
The shortage in supply of maize flour follows a subsidy programme effected by government late in July for stores to retail the two kilogramme pack at Sh100 flour from a high of Sh200.
Kenyans now face empty shelves at the supermarkets due to panic buying and supply hitches.
“Customers are buying foodstuffs across but demand for maize flour started when prices were dropped,” an attendant at one of the Naivas stores said.
The increased shopping over this election time is similar to the Covid-19 period when consumers snapped up essential items and food in 2020 following curfew and lockdown that had been imposed as part of measures to contain the disease.
This also saw a shift to e-commerce and is expected to continue gaining momentum as businesses open up to customers that remain locked in their homes.
The rising demand follows an economic hardship that started during pandemic period, leading to changes in shopper buying patterns to focus on essential items.
A jump in the cost of basic commodities is expected to further narrow the shopping basket of households who have already been forced to cut on non-essential expenditure amid negative growth in real wages.
Kenya’s inflation climbed to a 61-month high in July on soaring food and fuel prices as well as cost of home equipment and appliances, according to data from the statistics agency.
Average cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks which climbed 15.3 percent, with prices of carrots, maize grain-loose and non-aromatic white rice and beans increasing by 13.0, 9.7 and 4.2 percent in July 2022 relative to June 2022.
The impact of Treasury allowed subsidies and waiver of import duties to smoothen the purchase of key food items such as maize, rice and milk powder from abroad is expected to be felt this month.