by John McCurry, contributing writer
Lindsey Kueffner, executive director of the Carolinas Food Industry Council, oversees an organization that represents grocers in both North and South Carolina. Each of the states took different approaches to handling the COVID-19 pandemic, making it complicated to keep up with all the issues affecting grocers.
“It’s been very challenging to have one state require masks and the other not,” Kueffner said. “When you look at the challenges surrounding COVID, you obviously have the consumer demands that are a huge challenge. But in addition to that, you have the challenge of keeping up with the varied and ever-changing federal and state and local government requirements. Any business that operates across municipal lines is challenged to keep up with those things. For example, North Carolina had some areas with a prohibition of alcohol sales past a certain time of night, and that has now been mandated statewide. Grocers have to keep up with these.”
Kueffner said the Carolinas have experienced what is going on nationally in the grocery industry. Demand for online shopping increased practically overnight.
“Early in the spring, we saw consumers making fewer trips to the store. But when they did go, they stocked up more,” she said. “Dramatic changes in consumer behavior, in combination with restaurant closures and stay-at-home orders, caused demand for paper products, meats and fresh produce to really soar.”
Kueffner said CFIC has held regular conference calls to keep members informed during the pandemic. Some members have served on the governors’ COVID-19 task forces in both states.