Our Supply Chain and Coronavirus: Why Food Manufacturing is Critical
Let’s take a moment to celebrate how the food and beverage industry has been indispensable to the supply chain.
The Coronavirus outbreak shows us that in times of stress, many people are willing to step up to the plate. In less-dire circumstances, many workers do their essential jobs unnoticed, keeping America running smoothly. But in these unprecedented times, people have started to realize how critical these unsung heroes really are. One of these crucial areas is the food and beverage manufacturing industry.
Before the Coronavirus outbreak, many people didn’t give much thought to where their food was coming from. Beverages were bottled, meals prepped, and food packaged. Workers did their important jobs and came home to their families.
But in these new, strange times of COVID-19, food manufacturing has become part of our frontline defense. Americans sheltering in place in their homes need access to food, beverages, and other goods. Food manufacturers are doing their part to ensure that production remains as stable as possible and the supply chain continues to run as efficiently as it can.
While food manufacturing has always played a critical role in the American food supply story, the COVID-19 situation has opened many eyes to the vital operations of bringing foods and beverages to the masses.
The Changing Food Supply Under Covid-19
Many food and beverage manufacturers are seeing a shift in the demand for certain products. According to Nielsen, sales of items like dried beans and chickpeas have risen near 50% over the last month. The demand for rice is also up, along with powdered milk, bottled water, soups, and shelf-stable foods.
Americans aren’t necessarily “hoarding” these food items, but they are buying with an eye to long-term storage. With more cooks attempting meals at home, convenience foods like canned soups and bottled beverages have become necessary items on the grocery and delivery list.
Some consumers have felt concerned as shelves at their local stores have appeared empty due to higher demand, but as most food manufacturers know, there’s no need to panic. The food supply has plenty of surpluses according to the latest USDA report showing record-high storage numbers as recently as January. This news has come as a comfort to many.
Imports & Exports Present a Challenge
A record surplus of shelf-stable foods is not to say that the increased demand for certain foods (and supply-chain issues surrounding the global pandemic) hasn’t presented a few unique challenges for food and beverage manufacturers and distributors.
Some food and beverage manufacturers have run into stumbling blocks with their international supply chain. For those companies that rely on ingredients and supplies from Asian countries—especially China—their imports have slowed down and accessibility has been a challenge. Big suppliers and manufacturers like Tyson and Coca-Cola have run into some concerns for certain ingredients like artificial sweeteners.
China has begun to shift into recovery mode and access has increased but storage and shipping costs have also been on the rise. The demands for refrigeration and port storage have been a concern for many suppliers.
But for the most part, the domestic supply chain has been moving quite smoothly, given the unusual circumstances. This is thanks, in large part, to dedicated food service workers, truckers, and manufacturers, who have increased production and adjusted their approach to meet the shifting demand.
One of the most reassuring aspects of the Coronavirus is that per the FDA, there haven’t been any reports of COVID-19 transmitted through food or food packaging. Food manufacturers know how critical food safety and sanitation are to their operations, but it’s good to know that the stringent protocols that they already take are working well. This confidence has helped many food manufacturers rest easy and continue their production even under these challenging circumstances.
Keeping Employees Safe
Food and beverage manufacturing companies are working hard to ensure the health and safety of their employees as well as their customers. Many producers are offering increased sick leave options and implementing extra safety measures such as fewer on-floor staff, adjusted shifts, and travel restrictions to ensure they’re keeping employees safe.
Some companies are also offering their employees extra pay, access to overtime, and other benefits for their essential efforts. Shipment, delivery, and commerce companies have hired additional staff, and now food and beverage manufacturers are following in their steps. While it’s uncertain how this will continue to play out, most manufacturing companies and their employees have risen to the occasion.
As with most businesses right now, office workers and non-essential personnel are encouraged to work from home and finding remote options for tasks like ordering, customer service, and marketing. This option has helped to prevent and minimize furloughs and layoffs and to ensure employees can receive their benefits. These measures also help companies ensure that once the outbreak has passed, they will continue to retain their great, trained workers and staff.
Meeting the Increased Demands and Needs of Our Country
Increased demand for food and beverages during certain events isn’t so unusual. Over the holidays and during events like the NBA Playoffs and the Super Bowl, for example, manufacturers often see the demands for certain foods and beverages shift. Often during natural disasters and emergencies, the need for water, canned goods, and other supplies increases as well.
What is unusual about the Coronavirus pandemic is the variety and types of foods that are experiencing increased demand. Consumers are looking for snacks, comfort foods, and easy-to-prepare items. We’ve all heard about the toilet paper shortage, but other items (like chips and snack foods) have been popular as well.
One of the most uplifting aspects of this crisis is the deeper appreciation people have for those who contribute to the food supply chain. People are thanking grocery store workers, buying lunch for truckers, and really starting to admire and appreciate how much hard work goes into keeping our food supply running smoothly.
While we don’t know how this will play out or how long this crisis will last, the food and beverage industry will likely continue to have a critical role in the response. These critical workers already know the demands and critical nature of their job. Still, for America’s food supply, the food and beverage industry workers are serving as frontline heroes right now.
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. 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!