The Groceries That No One Wants to Panic-Buy

Americans are emptying their supermarkets of everything but these persistently unappealing products.

A shopper wearing a mask purchases grocery items at a Target store
Grocery stores are being ransacked amid the coronavirus panic. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As with many crises, one way we’ve measured these early weeks of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak has been in supermarket lines and emptied shelves. In many places, nervous shoppers have been stockpiling groceries in anticipation of extended spells of social distancing. Although it’s not the rule everywhere, markets across the country have been struggling to replenish their wares as canned foods, dried goods, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper become worth their weight in gold. But there are a few consumer attitudes that even a run on supermarkets cannot erase: Some foods are just that unappealing. Here, according to Twitter users and Slate staffers’ own ill-fated shopping trips, is what isn’t flying off the shelves.

Pasta Made From Chickpeas

Banza pasta boxes on an otherwise empty shelf.
Ben Mathis-Lilley

Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley reports that shoppers laid waste to the entire pasta aisle at a Whole Foods in Millburn, New Jersey, save for the chickpea-based options like Banza. The Amazon product page for Banza’s linguine notes, “Banza is bringing the sexy back to pasta.”

Chocolate Hummus

Chocolate hummus is the canary in the coal mine. If you see it selling out, it’s time to start fleeing into the woods.

Dryer Sheets

Lots of dryer sheets on a grocery market shelf.
Justin Peters

Slate correspondent Justin Peters sent a picture of what looks to be a nearly untouched dryer sheet selection at a Foodtown in New York City. Actually, this is a luxury you should indulge. Home confinement is the best time to make sure your clothes are soft.

“Obscure Canned Veggies”

According to Slate social media editor Sofie Werthan, stocks of “obscure canned veggies” like artichokes and asparagus spears are still plentiful at her local Giant in D.C.


Hilarious brand discrimination aside, there’s really no reason to be stocking up on bottled water right now.


Reminds people too much of swine flu, I guess?

Kidney Beans

Kidney bean cans on an otherwise empty shelf.
Greg Lavallee

Slate’s director of technology, Greg Lavallee, reports that kidney beans appear to be least desired canned legumes in his D.C. Whole Foods.

Vegan Food

Vegans will inherit the earth.

For more on the impact of the coronavirus, listen to the latest episode of What Next: TBD.