Doomsday Prepper Supply Companies Are the Real Winners of the 2016 Election
by BREENA KERR
When doomsday “preppers” start stockpiling emergency food, it’s usually because of a typhoon, a terrorist attack or some event that signals that the end times is near. This month, the horrifying event du jour is the U.S. presidential election.
“We’re hearing from people in our call center,” said Keith Bansemer, the vice president of marketing at MyPatriotSupply.com, which sells emergency rations. “People feel like they’ve lost control of the election process. So they’re taking matters into their own hands — those things they can control. I think there is apprehension with both top candidates.”
A recent story in The New York Times echoed these concerns — specifically, the belief on the part of many Donald Trump supporters that a victory by Hillary Clinton could spark a war in the United States.
Just in case all Hell breaks loose on Nov. 8, many doomsday preppers are stocking up on emergency survival food including military Meals Ready to Eat, which boast decades-long shelf-lives.
“The last couple of weeks have been the busiest in our company’s history,” Bansemer said of MyPatriotSupply, which opened for business in 2008 and began seeing a sales spike in July. In the last few weeks, revenue has almost tripled and the company is shipping out thousands of units a day, according to Bansemer.
Among its products, the company sells a one-year supply of food for four people for $6,897 and packs containing 720 servings of Franklin’s Finest Survival Coffee.
“That’s two cups per day for an entire year!” according to MyPatriotSupply’s website. “Franklin’s Finest is the ultimate survival perk, especially for those that drink coffee on a daily basis. It’s also the perfect item for barter or trade in an emergency! (You’ll thank us for that tip later.)”
The food, like many modern emergency food products, promises an expiration date that is up to a quarter-century away.
Although Bansemer said many of the customers are “your moms, neighbors, school teachers” and other Americans who want to make sure they can feed their families in the event of an emergency, some are bona fide preppers, a nickname for people who prepare for a nebulous, approaching calamity they call WSHTF — “When Shit Hits the Fan” — with near-religious fervor.
WSHTF could be a global pandemic, a terrorist attack, a hack of the international banking system, a crippling economic recession or social unrest caused by a political event such as the upcoming election, according to many prepper blogs.
The most dedicated preppers don’t just store food, they make evacuation plans, pore over survival tactics and plan for a post-apocalyptic future. They tend to brush off mockery by promising that when things go wrong, you’ll be the one knocking on their door, asking for help. And right now, it’s fear around the election that is most pressing, Bansemer said.
In the emergency, long-term, ready-to-eat food business, sale spikes are usually motivated by fear.
“When people freak out, obviously our sales go up, because they’re worried about the uncertainty of everything,” said Bryan Nelson, the owner of the emergency food and survival supplies site, TheEpicenter.com. “When people see someone that has gone through something like the hurricane in North Carolina they think, ‘That could be me.’”
“Or if they don’t know what’s going to happen with the election and how it’s gonna turn out and how the other side is going to react to their candidate not winning. It’s a fear factor. If you have that kind of fear … that’s when our sales go up.”
TheEpicenter has been in business for 21 years and has sold more than a million prepackaged “emergency and outdoor” meals in some years. Like MyPatriotSupplies, TheEpicenter is a retailer and buys its food from a wholesaler.
The Fukushima nuclear plant disaster and the earthquakes in Nepal and Haiti were all sales-triggering events for TheEpicenter. Now, the same kind of natural disaster reaction is happening with some conservative clients who are worried about civil unrest after the election, albeit on a smaller scale, Nelson said.
“We had a customer come in to our office yesterday and he was very, very interested in freeze-dried food,” Nelson said. “He has a lot of property and 10 family members and said he wanted to get enough food together to feed 10 people for a year — specifically because he was worried about the election, about civil unrest, about how it’s going to go — that’s a lot of food.”
“In general, Trump supporters are very worried about everything and very private, because no one wants to be labelled in a negative way by the other side.”
The owner of another online food retailer also said they had seen sales spikes and that their supplier had sold out of many food items over the summer faster than it could restock.
The owner requested anonymity and asked not to be quoted for fear of being associated with the prepper community’s more fringe viewpoints and said they planned to close the online store and get out of the business because they couldn’t deal with the constant doomsday predictions any longer.
These sorts of sales spikes have not been seen industry-wide, however. The companies profiting the most appear to be those that emphasize WSHTF doomsday preparedness on their websites and advertise on conservative talk radio or T.V. shows.
That makes sense, according to Nelson, since those companies are reaching people who are already hyped-up about the election and fear civil unrest could happen no matter who wins.
This year, some officials are even taking precautions. The clerk and recorder of Arapahoe County, Colorado said he had gone so far as to train his staff to deal with a potential mass shooting and political conflicts in case things got out of hand — this after Trump alleged widespread voter fraud and called on supporters to monitor election sites.
Jared Halbrook, a Trump supporter, told The New York Times that “people are going to march on the capitols” if Clinton wins. “If push comes to shove, [Clinton] has to go by any means necessary,” Halbrook added. “It will be done.”
If such an uprising does happen, it’ll be the first time in years that right-wing groups actually make good on threats of revolt, Dr. Lawrence Rosenthal, the chair and lead researcher of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, wrote in an op-ed.
“Will the Trump constituency take up its leader’s hints and turn into an organized force … or to take revenge for imagined voter fraud?” Rosenthal asked. “If so, this would be a great departure from what we have seen in the recent past. Rising up … has been discussed on the far right for years … Yet the Tea Party was a movement that at most engaged in occasional verbal violence.”
MyPatriotSupply fits the profile of a politically-visible online store, since it advertises on Fox News, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze and the American Heroes Channel. It’s also sold by radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his Infowars website, which has published a dizzying number of articles predicting civil unrest this year.
The Epicenter, by contrast, sells mostly to hunters, campers, large companies, government agencies and embassies that must keep prepared food on-hand in case of an emergency. The Epicenter saw a boost in June and July, but sales are only up by 5.5 percent overall, Nelson said.
Other doomsday supply companies — such as Legacy Food Storage, which sells dehydrated and freeze-dried food — haven’t seen election-related spikes in the industry, but still keep close tabs on the next world crisis, real or imagined.
“We don’t believe there is going to be a spike until maybe after the election and in the event of a super-scary economic forecast from real events (Deutsche Bank goes upside down, China’s real estate bubble pops, etc.),” CEO Phillip Cox said in an email.
“Last year there was a red-blood-moon event [a lunar eclipse supposedly preceding the second coming of Jesus]. The year before last we had Ebola come on and that drove a huge spike in sales.”
Originally published at motherboard.vice.com.