How Iranians’ Taste Preferences and Buying Habits Changed Over 80 Days of COVID-19 Quarantine

© REUTERS / Ali KharaA man wearing a protective face mask walks past a Palestine mural in Tehran
A man wearing a protective face mask walks past a Palestine mural in Tehran - Sputnik International
Iran’s first case of COVID-19 was recorded on 19 February. Over a month and a half of quarantine, Iranians' lives have changed a lot. Of course, self-isolation has affected Iranian consumers’ food preferences and habits.

Sputnik has spoken to residents of Tehran and found out that Iranians have stopped buying gold and started investing their savings not in jewelry, but in stocks and securities on the stock market. However, we can’t say that the jewelry market in Tehran has completely “died” out during quarantine because many Iranians have sold their jewelry due to a lack of livelihoods.

"The jewelry market hasn’t stopped functioning amid the coronavirus outbreak. The market situation differed depending on the area. For example, in the north, jewelry shops didn’t really work. But in the south, where the working class mainly lives, there was active trade, since the workers have lost their jobs and wages, they were forced to sell jewelry to get at least some money. In general, of course, the coronavirus has hit the jewelry market, causing a decline in sales, but we can't say that we don't have any buyers of gold products", Ahmad, a Tehran jewelry store owner, said.

Tehran’s housing market has also been affected. Today, instead of buying real estate, Iranians prefer to transfer their capital to the stock market. However, one real estate agency owner noted that the 2.1% decline in purchasing power and housing prices in April is not only due to the coronavirus.

"This is also due to the sales season. There were holidays, the month of Ramadan started; there’s always less demand for real estate at this time. At the same time, because of the epidemic, construction was suspended, so there were fewer housing transactions. For example, if you take 10 small 50-square-metre apartments, they will be sold in 1-2 days. In the capital, there's strong demand for oversized housing; there are simply fewer offers due to the suspension of construction projects; that's why sales decreased", Jahangir explained.

As for grocery stores, they didn’t stop working even at the peak of the epidemic. Certain products, however, have become scarce. Having been to several grocery stores, Sputnik could hardly find any lasagna, pasta was also not sold everywhere. Vendors put this down to pasta plants having stopped production during the coronavirus, so this product has become scarce.

During the epidemic, Iranians have changed their preferences in fruits and vegetables. Tehran vegetable stall owners noted that demand for sour lemons, garlic, and ginger has risen sharply:

"Iranians started buying fruits that have the most vitamin C. Since there have been many recommendations that sour lemons, ginger, and garlic help strengthen the immune system and help the body fight coronavirus, Iranians were buying up these goods. But the delivery of the same sour lemons from the country’s hot regions was intermittent, because there were problems with freight transport. Due to rush demand, prices for these products have risen sharply, the price of sour lemons has risen from 9,900 tomans ($0.6) to 38,000 ($2.4) tomans per kilo, dried garlic has risen from 13,500 tomans ($0.8) to 32,000 ($2) tomans per kilo, ginger has risen from 45,000 tomans ($2.8) to 65,000 ($4) tomans per kilo", Ahmad Khodudi, a vegetable stall owner from eastern Tehran, said.

Snacks rate second in sales after disinfectants and detergents. At the same time, Iranians have refused street food. Today, homemade pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers have become a new Instagram trend in Iran, as well as homemade bread, muffins, cakes, and sweets.

"I used to buy a lot of pastries, sweets, and bread. With the quarantine regime, I don't go out and make my own bread at home. It does take a lot of time, but to some extent it brings us back to the old traditions – homemade bread tastes better", Fatima, a housewife, noted.

The total disinfection of groceries is among the innovations now being witnessed in Iranian homes.

Somaye complained that she gets very tired because of the thorough washing of all vegetables and fruits: "I have to thoroughly disinfect all my groceries before putting them in the fridge; it takes a lot of time. I used to wash only greens, and now we have to disinfect, wipe, and dry everything".

Demonstrators rally in front of the California State Capital building during a protest calling for the reopening of California, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Sacramento, California, U.S. May 7, 2020. - Sputnik International
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Cars are also being disinfected in Tehran. Amid the coronavirus, lanes with disinfecting tunnels have been an unusual innovation for drivers. Disinfection is free there. Sputnik's correspondent has also tested this disinfection method; everyone in the car had their temperature measured as a bonus.

Due to the lack of imports, electronics in Iran, especially smartphones, which are gradually becoming a deficit, have become very expensive, as warehouses are now empty.

The coronavirus has also affected cinemas, Iranians’ usual leisure time activity. For the first time in the history of Iranian cinema, online home cinema service has been launched. The number of various online courses has also increased: sports, sewing, IT disciplines, cooking, foreign languages, etc.

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