Usually the domain of survivalist groups and doomsday “preppers,” food stockpiling has gained some mainstream appeal in the UK recently, amid fears that the country could leave the European Union without a deal, leading to shortages of basic goods.
More than 600 people across Britain have bought a $380 “Brexit Box” since it was launched in December, according to manufacturer Emergency Food Storage.
Billed as “Brexit stockpiling made easy,” the box includes 60 freeze-dried main meals, a water filter and fire starter.
“Brexit could potentially be an emergency – if we believe all these predicted chaos reports,” James Blake, who co-owns the company, told CNN.
“We are in a situation that is completely unprecedented … something like this [the box] puts people in control when they can’t control what is going on around them.”
The box’s popularity comes as lobby and business groups warn that the UK leaving the EU on March 29 without a negotiated deal in place could cause havoc to food and medical supply chains.
The chief of supermarket chain Tesco warned last week that it was working with suppliers to stockpile tinned food in case of a no-deal Brexit.
Stockpiling concerns have also been discussed on social media platforms such as Twitter and Reddit, and users on the parenting forum Mumsnet have been sharing lists of products to stock up on.
These fears have also led London’s Metropolitan Police to advise retailers to hire additional security, as worries over the shortages in goods could lead “to a significant increase in customers,” it said in a statement.
CNN has yet to receive comment from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the issue. But the Financial Times reported the government as saying consumer stockpiling is unnecessary – and could lead to panic buying and food shortages.
Downing Street said in December that the government planned on sending households guidance on how to plan for events.
Range of buyers
Blake, who started the company in 2009, said the box’s buyers range from the “normal average Joe” to “directors of companies,” adding that “on average, 25 units are sold a day on the website and over the phone.”
“What we wanted to do is create an environment that gives everything,” he said of the products, which include tins of macaroni cheese, bolognese, and chicken tikka.
Asked whether he is profiting from people’s fears and confusion about Brexit, Blake likened the product, which has a 25-year shelf life, to buying car or home insurance. “In this situation, food running dry is not an unrealistic possibility,” and buying a product like his will “insure” customers against that, he said.
Blake added that he personally lived off the products for a week. “And it is definitely quite tasty,” he said.
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is Monday attempting to shore up support ahead of Tuesday’s crucial vote on her beleaguered withdrawal deal with the EU.
There is increasing speculation in Westminster that if May’s deal collapses, the whole Brexit process will be delayed.