Across the nation, the coronavirus pandemic is causing an upheaval to normal life. As the federal government continues to advise social distancing and working from home when possible, the food industry is stepping up to help Americans get through this public health emergency.
Grocery retailers, distributors and suppliers are adjusting their hours, adding more staff and increasing production to help meet demand. Following is information on how Covid-19 is affecting Americans and how some businesses are responding to new challenges.
UNFI affirms commitment to health of front-line DC associates
UNFI, a national food wholesaler, has established safety protocols, added additional flexibility and provided incentives for the front line distribution center associates providing America with essential services during the Covid-19 national state of emergency.
“As Americans continue to look to us to help keep stores across the country well-stocked during this national emergency, we are fully committed to supporting our valued associates and working to meet their needs,” said Steven L. Spinner, chairman and CEO. “Our 21,000 associates are at the very heart of the food distribution sector’s around-the-clock effort to keep America fed and prepared amidst the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19. We hope our new protocols will provide an important degree of assurance and comfort to our world-class workforce, especially as cases inevitably increase in the weeks ahead and deliveries become more difficult amidst widespread business closures.”
UNFI distribution center teams, from its selectors and sales support to its forklift operators and truck drivers, as well as all support staff within a DC are essential workers in helping ensure UNFI continues to fulfill its role as a critical link in the North American food supply chain.
In recognition of its associates’ dedication and efforts during this time of national emergency, UNFI is putting in place several new protocols designed to provide assurance and safety to its workforce, including:
- Full-time and part-time direct labor associates and drivers will receive a Temporary State of Emergency Bonus of $2 per hour on top of their regular wages and overtime hours for time worked through March 31;
- Enhanced flexibility and exceptions will be enacted to adapt attendance policies and productivity expectations to make sure the quality and safety of America’s food supply is maintained in the face of unprecedented demand;
- Fortified safety for drivers and warehouse associates through these times of unprecedented volume;
- 14 additional days of paid sick leave for associates if they are diagnosed with Covid-19;
- Up to 14 days of additional paid leave for associates if a facility is closed due to Covid-19; and;
- UNFI Assist, UNFI’s umbrella for its corporate social responsibility program, also has allocated funds to support grants to associates experiencing Covid-19 financial hardships.
“Our associates have done a tremendous job keeping UNFI’s supply chain secure and stable as customer demand has surged to unprecedented levels,” added Paul Green, chief supply chain officer. “They continue to go the extra mile and put the needs of our customers first despite long hours and large workloads. This is why we, in turn, will continue to do whatever is in our power to prioritize their health and wellbeing at all times.”
Jill Sutton, chief legal officer, added, “We have robust business planning and continuity programs in place that our teams are executing on with tremendous focus, effective protocols and care for our workforce. We believe these efforts will continue to allow us to keep our associates and our communities safe. We will not be deterred from carrying out our essential mission of providing the high-quality food products that our customers have come to expect of us during this critical time.”
UNFI delivers the widest variety of products to customer locations throughout North America including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, ecommerce retailers, and food service customers.
Meat sales accelerating quickly at onset of coronavirus retail surge
Picked over or mostly empty meat cases are a sign of the times. Grocery retail is getting overwhelmed with an influx of shoppers wanting to stock up, according to data and insights from Anne-Marie Roerink, principal and founder of 210 Analytics, and IRI.
A walk through the meat departments at Winn-Dixie, Publix and Walmart showed mostly empty shelves with just some sporadic items—often products with low household penetration like chickeLocal grocery retailers, distributors and suppliers are adjusting their hours, adding more staff and increasing production to help meet demand.n hearts, beef tripas and plant-based meat alternatives. In the midst of these unprecedented times, shoppers are returning to the familiar—putting meat back at the center of plate. Retailers are working hard to keep their stores stocked, processing plants are ramping up capacity to attempt to keep up with the orders flooding their systems and distributors are trying to divert supply from foodservice to food retail.
Meat sales are accelerating quickly as is evidenced by comparing the results for the 12, four- and one-week periods ending March 8. Meat sales without deli meat increased 7.3 percent the week ending March 8, and deli meat sales advanced 4.8 percent.research, FMI,
IRI, BCG release new Covid-19 research; IRI debuts new data dashboard
Since the acceleration of the Covid-19 outbreak across the world, governments, businesses and consumers are changing behaviors rapidly. To keep abreast of these shifts, IRI collaborated with its partners at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to analyze the latest consumer purchases in Italy, France, the U.K. and the U.S. in the report, “COVID-19 Impact: Consumer Spending Tracker.”
Key highlights from the research include:
- Paper products, home care and over-the-counter (OTC) health care purchases have spiked dramatically across all survey markets, as have packaged foods.
- Trends from Italy (approximately three weeks earlier to the Covid-19 crisis than the U.S.) and France (approximately two weeks earlier) suggest continuing heightened consumer demand; however, the demand does show signs of stabilizing.
- In the U.S., there was an inflection point during the week of March 1, when significant stockpiling began.
These trends have most strongly impacted multi-outlet (MULO) retailers but have also impacted convenience players in the U.S.
- Certain sub-categories have seen particularly high spikes, particularly in home care and OTC health care.
Also, IRI has rolled out a new data dashboard on its website, in addition to its Covid-19 Insights Portal launched last week, to track the dramatic changes going on:
- COVID-19 Data Dashboard: This data dashboard continuously tracks the daily impact of Covid-19 on consumers and the CPG and retail industries, leveraging IRI’s proprietary models, and powered by IRI Liquid Data and dozens of integrated data sets. It links to the insights portal.
- COVID-19 Insights Portal: CPG and retail industries are reacting to acute changes in consumer behavior, shopper demands and supply chain challenges. This online hub houses resources, including Covid-19 impact analyses, dashboards and the latest thought leadership from IRI experts to support you as you make critical business decisions. It links to the data dashboard.
Food industry deemed essential, critical to infrastructure in Covid-19 response
FMI–The Food Industry Association, representing food retailers, wholesalers and suppliers of the nation’s food and consumer goods, commends the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) for including food, agriculture, transportation and logistics among its essential, critical infrastructure. This allows grocery stores and their supply chain partners to maintain their daily operations to serve customers.
“Whether it’s during a natural disaster or a national emergency, the food industry does what it does best—cares for customers and communities; managing to rise to the occasion and provide solid customer service when it matters most,” said FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin. “The supply chain continues to adapt to meet the new levels of demand and being deemed an essential workforce allows the industry to restock and replenish products across the country without interruption.
“In the midst of challenges to keep products flowing, the needs of all their customers and partners—including WIC and SNAP shoppers—remain top-of-mind. I am honored to work in this industry that is resilient in answering the challenges arising during this national emergency. I know the food industry is doing its very best to get shoppers food and basic necessities to help offer comfort and nourishment during this uncertain time.”
As the food industry association, FMI works with and on behalf of the entire industry to advance a safer, healthier and more efficient consumer food supply chain. FMI brings together a wide range of members across the value chain—from retailers that sell to consumers, to producers that supply food and other products, as well as the wide variety of companies providing critical services—to amplify the collective work of the industry.
Shipt adding shoppers during Covid-19 pandemic
Birmingham, Alabama-based Shipt, the same-day delivery marketplace, is adding additional shoppers in certain areas to serve customers during a time of increased demand as the Covid-19 situation evolves. Shipt provides home delivery from local retailers offering groceries, household essentials and medications safely and conveniently.
Shipt will be hiring as follows: 3,000 shoppers in the Detroit, Michigan, metro area; 2,000 in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, metro area; and hundreds of shoppers in the Boston metro, Washington, D.C., metro and New York City metro areas.
“At Shipt, we’re committed to providing a safe experience for our customers and Shipt Shoppers, and I’m proud of the important role shoppers have played in helping our communities access food, essentials and medications without leaving their homes,” said Kelly Caruso, CEO of Shipt. “Bringing additional shoppers onto the Shipt platform will allow us to meet the increased demand for the communities we serve.”
Starting today, Shipt will begin recruiting for shoppers. With customer and shopper safety of the utmost priority, Shipt will ensure the latest CDC guidelines and recommendations are embedded in new and existing Shipt Shopper resources, giving shoppers access to the knowledge they need to deliver safely and efficiently.
Given the current environment, Shipt is enabling “social distancing” by encouraging shoppers to complete deliveries by dropping orders at the door, avoiding physical contact.
Shoppers must be at least 18 years old, have reliable transportation and a current driver’s license. To apply, visit Shipt.com/shopper and select “Apply Now.”
For more information on Shipt and current service availability, visit Shipt.com.