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How Food Manufacturers are Rising to Meet COVID-19 Demands

We applaud those in food manufacturing who are working through this crisis to increase production and meet the demands of America’s food needs.

Medical personnel, first responders, and even grocery-store workers are heroes during the outbreak of COVID-19. But there are other unsung heroes as well—those who work in food manufacturing and who keep the supply chain moving smoothly. During this unprecedented time, these heroes are working hard to keep up production and to ensure America has access to plenty of healthy food and beverages. Here is how food manufacturers have stepped up to the plate—increasing production to keep Americans fed.

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Those who work in food manufacturing do a hard, often thankless job. Lineworkers spend long days on their feet. They put a lot of effort and pride into ensuring the foods America loves arrive safely on the shelves of the store and into the kitchens of eager consumers.

COVID-19 has changed the way we all look at many aspects of our lives. We’ve all come to appreciate the roles of teachers, emergency responders, medical personnel, and those working in the service industry. Adding to this list of heroes are the food and beverage manufacturers who are finding innovative ways to keep up with demand and adjust to our “new normal.”

While there’s no doubt challenges lie ahead for the industry, it’s essential to recognize the tireless efforts put forth by the food and beverage manufactures, distributers, and other workers who keep our food supply running. Here’s how food and beverage manufacturers are rising to this unusual occasion.

Continuing to Keep the Essential Business of Food Manufacturing Running

The food and beverage industry has been on the frontlines of the outbreak. Some food manufacturers are experiencing significant supply chain challenges, as well as concerns for the health and welfare of their workforce. These concerns have hit some manufacturers harder than others.

Still, production has remained as consistent as possible under the circumstances. When the COVID-19 outbreak first began, customers were frightened to see empty shelves at the grocery store. Despite the initial “run” on certain products, those shelves were, and continue to get restocked by workers.

We’ve been assured by the FDA that food supplies in America remain relatively stable, with a surplus in several areas. The dedication of food suppliers and manufacturers has ensured that food storage remains, and we likely won’t face a significant food shortage on most staple foods (like beans, prepared items, and canned goods) during this crisis.

Packaging and Shipping Are Playing a Big Role

We often forget about the critical role packaging plays in food manufacturing. Bottles, labels, lids, boxes, and plastic containers are all part of the food and beverage manufacturing process. Mechanical equipment keeps lines moving. Sterilizing and sanitizing equipment uses hot water to keep food safe. Refrigeration and storage are all part of the process too.

Each tool and piece of equipment plays a vital role in the food manufacturing process, which is why it’s so crucial that those other manufacturers and equipment servicers keep going in the crisis. If one piece of equipment goes down, the supply chain experiences a disruption. Bottles that can’t get labeled or a shortage of lids could result in wasted product and materials.

All across the manufacturing and shipping industry, businesses continue to keep going. While supply chain disruptions from Asia are an inevitable part of the situation, domestic storage and shipping remain mostly steady. Truckers are bringing products all across America to keep consumers fed.

Adjusting to New Demands and a New “Normal”

COVID-19 has drastically changed the way people buy and eat food. Many people are choosing to eat at home more (even as they continue to support local restaurants with to-go pickup). Coronavirus cooking has become a new phenomenon. At-home chefs are whipping up their favorite dishes and virtually sharing the results with their friends.

With the increase of at-home cooking, the demand for staples, snack foods, and easy-to-cook options has increased as well. Beans, rice, and other shelf-stable foods are quite popular. Consumers also favor frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, which are easy to ship and store.

While the trend toward packaged foods has been mostly good for food manufacturers, it has required many of them to adjust their approach. To understand why that is, we can explore a good parallel example with the increased demand for toilet paper.

Toilet paper flew off the shelves in the early days of the outbreak because consumers were scared. There was an element of “stocking up” (and yes, even hoarding). As the virus outbreak has continued, people noticed that toilet paper wasn’t getting replenished as quickly as other products.

Manufacturers had to adjust their approach to making toilet paper. The demand shifted from commercial paper (to supply offices, workplaces, restaurants, movie theaters, and many other popular spots) to the regular-sized rolls consumers favor at home. This adjustment called for different sized rolls and even different quality paper. It wasn’t a transition that manufacturers could quickly make overnight—they had to plan and adjust their operations.

We’ve seen similar adjustments as breweries switched to creating hand sanitizer, and as clothing manufacturers changed to sewing masks. These efforts help meet the new demands of this changing landscape, but they take time and effort. Manufacturers are working hard to keep up and pull through.

We’re also seeing changes to the way America eats in general. With shortages of meat due to COVID-19 outbreaks in some meat processing plants, consumers will likely switch to more plant-based meals. Home-cooks are favoring slow foods, especially when they’re stuck at home. Meal planning has become an event and a highlight of the day.

Food and Beverage Manufacturers Continue Working Hard for Safety

Although conditions, regulations, and outlook on COVID-19 change seemingly daily, food and beverage manufacturers continue to work hard and meet the needs of the public.

Many manufacturers are also looking closely at the needs of their vital workers right now. This crisis has underscored the importance of this under-sung industry. Food manufacturing workers have put their health and safety on the line to ensure that food continues to be available for the public. In some cases, manufacturers have increased their pay to include hazard bonuses. They’ve also taken social distancing safety protocols whenever possible.

Because of the essential nature of food manufacturing, companies are taking on many safety adjustments to protect their workers. These measures include unprecedented steps, such as taking workers temperatures before each shift (and sending them home if they are unwell).

Some of the other safety adjustments include a huge increase in the approach to cleaning. Hourly sanitization of work areas with special attention to touchpoints (like light switches, knobs, and equipment handles) has become regular practice in many food manufacturing plants.

Other safety adjustments include staggering shifts to limit the number of workers on the floor at any time. Many companies strongly encourage workers to stay home if they feel ill, with some even bringing in temporary workers to help bridge the productivity gap. In situations where employees would normally “power through” a cold or allergies to continue a shift, manager are now encouraging them to stay home without penalty.

The food service industry has always been known for its unparalleled approach to food safety and hygiene. To keep workers safe and healthy, food manufacturers are also strongly encouraging the use of additional PPE like masks (gloves, hairnets, and other protective equipment is already the norm in food safety).

The good news for manufacturers is that food contamination hasn’t been a source of spread for this particular outbreak. Following routine food safety protocol has been enough to ensure products stay clean. Manufacturers are still taking extra precautions and sanitizing measures just in case.

As this virus continues to affect our lives, the landscape of food manufacturing will continue to change as well. One thing’s for certain, the hard workers in the food manufacturing industry are heroes who are ensuring that America has plenty of food to weather the COVID-19 storm.

Reliable Water Services is Here for You

Hot water is critical to health, sanitation, and safety in general, but it’s especially vital to the industries we serve—and the majority of those industries are considered essential businesses. As our customers remain operational during these unprecedented times, so does Reliable Water Services.

Making sure our customers have hot water has always been our main priority, and now more than ever, we are here for you. We will continue to provide 24/7 water heater services to our customers, ensuring you have the hot water your business relies on. Our office team is practicing social distancing by working remotely, while our service technicians and installing contractors are following extra safety guidelines to ensure they can service your building safely without putting themselves or your staff members at risk.

Our team at RWS has always viewed the relationship with each of our customers as a partnership. Through this partnership, we will work together and get through these unique and challenging times. As always, should you need service contact us 24/7 at 1-800-356-1444. Stay safe, and be well!