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Industry Members Discuss Surge in Grocery Demand, Supply Chain, and More in WSJ Exclusive

Industry Members Discuss Surge in Grocery Demand, Supply Chain, and More in WSJ Exclusive

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

The state of the current market is unprecedented, with demand for critical grocery items at an all-time high—with no signs of changing anytime soon. While grocery retailers have been enacting a series of strategies to keep consumers well-stocked with important goods, our industry’s leading suppliers have been working just as hard to make sure retailers and consumers have access to said goods.

The Wall Street Journal recently checked in with a couple of the U.S.’s dairy, meat, and produce suppliers to uncover how they’re faring under the developments of COVID-19 and what they’re implementing to stay on top of skyrocketing demand.

Cargill was one of the companies interviewed. The meat provider's Supply Chain Head, Ruth Kimmelshue, noted that orders from grocery chains surged over the last week on goods like deli meat, ground beef, frozen turkey, and cooked eggs.

Ruth Kimmelshue, Supply Chain Head, CargillWe’re confident in the food system. The pipelines will refill normally and there will be food available through this crisis,” said Kimmelshue, who also revealed that Cargill relies on its cold storage facilities to provide a buffer of supply. In these facilities, the company and its team maintain weeks’ worth of supplies of its products.

In terms of maintaining health and safety, Cargill is also doing its part to keep workers safe by checking employees’ temperatures, asking truckers to stay in their vehicles, stationing workers apart, and spreading workers across multiple shifts, according to the news source.

The WSJ also interviewed meat behemoth Tyson Foods, whose Chief Executive Officer, Noel White, disclosed a few of the company’s strategies for meeting the demand. Some of those strategies include cross-training employees; altering its processing lines to include more shrink-wrapped meat and additional store-ready products; and preparing more grocery store-ready packs of chicken breasts, pork chops, and salad greens. The company is even deploying volunteer teams across its facilities in case its own workers call in sick.

Noel White, Chief Executive Officer, Tyson Foods“It is in fact unprecedented, the type of growth we’ve seen,” said Noel White, Chief Executive Officer of Tyson Foods, noting that “the food supply is sufficient.” However, he also said that Tyson Foods had employees working through the weekend to ship chicken, beef, and other products to grocery stores.

On the dairy side of the industry, Danone North America is running its operations at full speed to stay on top of the high demand. This includes one of the largest yogurt processing plants in the U.S.

Mariano Lozano, Chief Executive Officer, Danone North America“We’re in uncharted territory,” said Mariano Lozano, Danone North America's Chief Executive Officer. “We make decisions and cross-correct almost by the hour."

Dairy farmers who supply Danone and its facilities are also working hard to rid the supply chain of shortfalls and keep both grocers and customers well-supplied with milk. This includes stocking up on extra feed in case transportation becomes more restricted and doubling down on crucial sanitation efforts.

To hear what additional meat, dairy, and produce suppliers had to say on the state of the market and the strategies they're enacting, read the WSJ article in-full here. And for more updates as they occur, stay tuned to Deli Market News.