“The corona crisis has caused people to go back to basics and I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” says Andrew George, Director of Sales at EarthFresh. People shop for staple items like potatoes that are nutritious, inexpensive and can be stored for much longer than many other fresh produce items. “In addition, consumers are looking for healthy food items to help build their immune system,” George added. There was an initial ‘panic-shop’ from consumers at the beginning stages of the COVID-19 news and people flooded to retail stores to stock up, but retailers responded immediately by refilling the stores and pipelines.
Andrew George with EarthFresh.
Increased retail demand will continue
Although panic shopping may be behind us, demand for groceries at retail level will continue to be high. “Following the government shutdown of restaurants in Canada, people are now forced to cook at home or look for delivery options. With most people now at home all day, they are eating their groceries faster than ever. In addition, they spend more when they make at trip to the store in an attempt to leave the house less frequently and keep their family members content.”
Larger pack sizes
Not only is demand for EarthFresh’ potato products up, the company is also seeing a shift in buying patterns. “We are seeing a trend toward larger pack sizes, specifically our 5 lb. bags and 10 lb. bags,” said George. Prior to the corona outbreak, people were increasingly buying smaller packaging, focused on convenience. In addition, demand for packaged product is up. “Most of our items are packaged and protected in our light-blocking bags. Packaging not only helps protect potatoes from greening, it also gives consumers added peace of mind.” Consumers feel safer buying packaged products versus bulk items that others may have touched.
Creativity in foodservice segment
As opposed to food retail, the foodservice segment has been hurt. However, people are coming up with very creative ways to keep at least some revenue coming in. “I’m seeing a major increase in meal kit delivery and grocery delivery,” said George. Also, many restaurants are still open with delivery options. Foodservice is a very important segment to EarthFresh and together with its foodservice customers and partners, the company is doing what it can to keep the supply chain going and help wherever needed.
All hands on deck
To keep up with increased demand, all of EarthFresh’ facilities are pumping out impressive volumes. “Our PEI facility is booming and our facilities in Ontario are working overtime. The newest facility in Atlanta, GA is busy packing and distributing for the Southeastern part of the US. Our shipping and production teams have really been put to the test but are thriving in this new ‘all hands-on-deck’ environment.”
Collaboration of supply chain
What the corona crisis has brought us is the collaboration of the entire supply chain to get food on the shelves. “Retailers have been very understanding during this new COVID-19 environment. Product is tight, availability of trucks is limited, and demand is high. The supply chain is complex, and most people understand that the real goal is to make sure there is product on the shelves when people show up to shop. It really feels like a team effort,” George said.” He wants to share his gratitude for everyone working the front lines. “So many industries and sectors are going the extra mile and our produce supply chain is filled with front line workers, ensuring that there are no gaps in supply and shelves are stocked.”