by Eric Pereira / staff writer
The total grocery industry – partners and competitors alike – have come together during the COVID-19 pandemic. And that’s made a lasting impression on Susan Morris.
According to Morris, EVP and COO of Albertsons Cos., the relationships and trust forged over the years has allowed the industry to cut through red tape in many situations.
“In different organizations which filtered prospects to us, we quickly assembled what we call a command center, where we could immediately identify opportunities of interpret. There was a lot of interpretation that had to be done,” she said.
“Because the cuts that we’re used to seeing, the products we’re used to buying, we had to interpret product descriptions, and then determine what the volume might be and redirect those items to areas that could utilize that product in our distribution network.”
Morris’ remarks came during a panel discussion Tuesday that reflected on the shock waves of the pandemic.
Moderated by Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute, the talk was part of the Annual Meat Conference, which is being held virtually this week.
In response to a question from Potts, The Giant Co. President Nicholas Bertram emphasized the importance of flexibility and forgiveness with suppliers. When it came to communicating with consumers, that issue received much attention.
“We got pretty skilled, I would say, at shelf-edge communication … trying to talk about exactly when things might come in, or what was going on, with a bit more transparency than you often do. But we also tried to show the whole supply chain and not just what happens at retail.”
David McDonald, president and COO of OSI Group, addressed the slowdown of raw materials. It was a problem in the sense that his firm didn’t always know what it was requesting.
“We would have as many orders and cancellations on any given day,” McDonald said. “So it was information that we couldn’t provide certainty to. And so we’ve appreciated this both from our customer standpoint – providing as much information and insight as they could – to our suppliers being flexible and being right up front with us and talking about decision-making deadlines.”
In looking ahead past the pandemic, Jon Nash SVP of Cargill Protein and Salt, said all eyes need to be fixed on e-commerce and digital.
“If you think about how people are buying at retail today, how they’re buying and QSRs today – the mobile apps, pickup/delivery, things like that, I think will continue to be really important,” he said. “Do you have product formats that allow for that, that help that flourish? Do you have capabilities to help your customers accelerate their work in those areas?
“I think you have to have very flexible supply chains, … and really invest in digital ecommerce, those sort of capabilities, to satisfy where the consumer is going. And it’s clear [COVID-19] has accelerated that transition. So we need to meet them where they are.”