It Takes a Hurricane to Stop Hawaiians from Buying Fish, Pork, and Beer

As sophisticated as my Sales & Marketing Specialist job title sounds, I will forever be a simple island boy at heart. Long before I was crunching market-research numbers at InfoScout, I was a pidgin-speaking, slipper-wearing, opihi-picking kid growing up in Kauai.

Prior to Hurricane Iselle’s strike on August 7th, the last big storm to hit Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki back in 1992. I was 11 years old at the time, and while I’m able to remember really obscure details of the event (like my dad picking me up from soccer practice the day before and saying something fatherly, like, “Storm’s coming”), I don’t remember doing any stock-up shopping before the storm. Now, with data from America’s largest purchase panel at my fingertips, I decided to analyze Hawaiians shopping habits in the weeks and days leading up to Hurricane Iselle.

First, it’s helpful to understand how islanders were shopping before the preparations for Hurricane Iselle began. Would it be stereotypical to guess that three of the top categories where Hawaiians out-bought the rest of the nation were Fish, Pork, and Beer? Maybe, but check out the comparison below between the weekly grocery purchases of islanders versus the rest of America.


Not surprisingly, the Pork and Fish categories saw some of the most significant declines (39% and 35% respectively) in the final days before Iselle as shoppers shifted their attention and wallets toward emergency preparation. Beer saw only an 11% decline because, you know, necessities. What did increase, however, was the percentage of Hawaiian households purchasing Water, more than doubling in the week before the storm. As the hurricane drew nearer, islanders also out-bought mainlanders in what are typically camping-related product categories such as Batteries, Paper & Plastic goods, and Sports Drinks.


I’ve always told friends how Costco has changed the dynamic of the Hawaiian potluck (what with their fancy pop-in-the-oven-for-immediate-deliciousness items). The massive store chain has always been a go-to locale for stock up trips, outshining every other retailer in terms of amount spent per shopping trip. Though most retailers saw increases in spend per shopping trip just prior to Iselle, Costco’s shoppers opened up their wallets the most, with average trip spending increasing by nearly $18 there. Costco’s dominance as a stock up destination for its shoppers was even more evident just prior to the hurricane.

Spend Per Shopping Trip by Retailer


In 1992, I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the storm’s destruction, but as the hurricane left the island without electricity, I was really excited to have an excuse to use a battery-powered flashlight every night. Prior to Iselle’s strike last month, Duracell and Energizer basically split the lead for share of Hawaii’s Battery dollars, but in the final days before the storm, Duracell decisively decimated its competition. The numbers in this section are even more impressive than the alliteration.




What drove shoppers to purchase Duracell so heavily in the final seven days before Hurricane Iselle? Does Duracell’s recent “Storm” TV campaign deserve the credit? Or, how about their in-store “Be Prepared” displays? Was it the TPR promotion Duracell was running at a couple key retailers that made all the difference? And how many questions can you ask in a row before losing the attention of your audience? While we can’t answer that last question, the team at InfoScout can help you answer all the others and more through our unique combination of consumer panel purchases and associated shopper surveys. And, if you’re still reading, we’d welcome your comments and questions at!