Emergency Supplies Before, During and After the Swiss Confederation’s COVID-19 Measures

Agroscope Science 116, 2021, 1-29

The older the respondents, the better they know and follow the emergency supply recommendations. Experience from the first lockdown can help ensure more stocking-up in future.

Data from a representative survey of around 1000 people living in Switzerland, conducted by the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) in 2020, served as the basis for this Agroscope study. Using multivariate analyses methods, Agroscope researchers investigated the reasons for stocking up on household supplies according to the guidelines of the Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES) before and during the first lockdown (13 March to 26 April 2020) as well as after the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, the following three research questions were answered:

  • Were there different groups within the Swiss population in terms of knowledge of the FONES recommendations regarding emergency supplies, and in terms of actual behaviour (laying-in of emergency supplies), even before the first lockdown in 2020? How can these groups be characterised?
  • What impact did sociodemographic factors have on the decision to stock up on more food and drink supplies than usual between 13 March and 26 April 2020?
  • What impact do sociodemographic factors have on the intention to stock up on emergency supplies after the COVID-19 crisis?

Before lockdown: differences between young and old

In terms of knowledge and behaviour, the respondents can be divided into three groups. People with a high average age and a lower educational level seem to be more aware of the topic of stocking up on household supplies. By contrast, it is particularly younger, well educated  people from French-speaking Switzerland who are less likely to follow the FONES recommendations.

During lockdown: the German/French divide

Sociodemographic factors only go so far in explaining people’s decisions to stock up on food supplies much more than usual during the first lockdown between 13 March and 26 April 2020.  

Women were more likely to increase their stocks of food. In addition, people from French- and Italian-speaking Switzerland were more likely to lay in larger stocks of food than people from German-speaking Switzerland.

Empty shelves motivate stockpiling

People who were worried during the first lockdown in 2020 about not being able to obtain certain foods are more likely in future to stock up on food and drink according to the FONES recommendations.


  • It is the older population who tend to stock up on emergency supplies.
  • In the first lockdown in 2020, women as well as people from French- and Italian-speaking regions were more likely to build up larger-than-usual emergency stocks.
  • People who were worried during the first lockdown in 2020 about certain foods becoming unavailable are more willing to stock up on emergency supplies in future. The same holds true for people belonging to an at-risk group.
  • In addition to FONES information campaigns encouraging the entire Swiss population to stock up on supplies, information targeted at younger, well-educated people from French-speaking Switzerland should be made available.
To the archive