British retailers have lost out on £18M (US$21.6M) in sales due to the limited availability of cooking oils amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country, according to new data reported by The Grocer.

Research by NielsenIQ showed that a total of 4% of all consumer packaged goods had been out of stock for four days, triggered by commodity price increases, rising energy costs and the impact of the war in Ukraine, the 20 June report said.

Cooking oils, however, was “one of the categories most significantly impacted” in a 20-week period until 22 May, the research team said, with availability in the UK dropping as low as 78% in May.

Low stocks had also hit sales in Spain and France, where availability dropped to 75%, the data showed.

In addition to “significant” lost sales, NielsenIQ analytics manager for retail collaborative sales Dan Sutton said low stocks also led to “reduced customer satisfaction and lower loyalty levels”.

“Our research shows that 30% of shoppers will visit a new store when they can’t find what they’re looking for, and 70% will buy a different brand when their regular choice is out of stock,” Sutton said.

Against this backdrop, many supermarkets had introduced limits on the number of cooking oil bottles customers could buy in a bid to manage limited stocks, The Grocer wrote.

Gary Lewis, the chief commercial officer of leading UK edible oil supplier KTC Edibles, told The Grocer that he expected the climate for rapeseed and sunflower oils to improve in the next few months.

“The good news is in August we’ll get the arrival of the European Union (EU) crop and the UK crop [of rapeseed oil],” he said, adding “sunflower availability looks like it will improve in a couple of months’ time”.

“We are actually seeing quite a few exports coming out of Ukraine through truck and rail, so availability has increased, but the prices are still too high for the market to move to.”

If availability continued to improve “we could see a situation by October, that sunflower becomes easily more available and actually becomes more price competitive”, Lewis added.