Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures; grocery retailers and food manufacturers have implemented such measures to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to safe food. Grocers have modified their in-store practices and suppliers have changed manufacturing processes and their supply chains to address unprecedented demand. “In Their Own Words” brings the behind-the-scenes stories to Grocery Business' readers.
Cara Keating, president, PepsiCo Foods Canada & Richard Glover, president, PepsiCo Beverages Canada
Crisis leadership initiatives
Cara: I’m really proud of how quickly we moved to implement safety measures across our business. We have a sizeable frontline population with manufacturing plants and sales associates across the country who are the engine of our business. Keeping our people safe has been at the heart of every decision we’ve made throughout this crisis. We implemented social distancing and hand washing practices early and reinforced their importance often, and it’s been working. Being a large global organization, we have been able to leverage PepsiCo resources and lessons available to us from our colleagues around the world, which has also helped us navigate this crisis.
Richard: We’ve also spent a lot of time on sourcing personal protective equipment for our frontline teams. Keeping them safe while they make, move and sell our products is critically important. Without our frontline team, we simply can’t operate. At the same time, our salaried associates are working from home to keep them safe and reduce interactions in our sales and manufacturing facilities for our frontline associates. For all our associates, we have provided resources to support their mental, physical and financial health. We know these are difficult times, both at work and at home, and we’re making every effort to give our people the support they need.
Impact on the supply chain
Richard: Like many manufacturers, we’ve seen significant fluctuations in consumer purchasing habits. Having availability in a time like this has been critical – especially when you think of products like Tropicana, Gatorade and our water brands that have seen higher demand. We have built enhanced planning capabilities to ensure that our supply chain is agile and responsive to meet this spiked demand. For our beverages business, we have also seen the impact of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry. These factors have driven us to change our supply chain and assortment to better serve our customers while reducing complexity for our associates.
Cara: Our foods business has also experienced spikes in buying patterns. While trips are certainly down, basket sizes are up significantly. We saw a lot of panic buying early on, which made it challenging to manage inventory because it was unpredictable. As the crisis progressed, we began to see regular patterns emerge, which has made it easier to forecast our volumes. We’ve had to make a number of adjustments throughout this pandemic. First, we reduced our sku assortment to simplify our manufacturing and ensure that our core products were always available. We also made adjustments to store service levels to accommodate daily visits to replenish empty shelves. It’s put a lot of pressure on our frontline teams who are working hard to stay on top of the needs of our customers and consumers.
Your business takeaways from this experience
Cara: This crisis has absolutely proven that we can run our business virtually. Our salaried population has been working from home since March 16 and we haven’t missed a beat. Did it mean we had to change our ways of working? Absolutely. But it’s also pushed us to be creative in how we make decisions and stay connected with our associates. Like any large organization, we can take a long time to make decisions. In the past two months we’ve made many decisions quickly, both big and small, without sacrificing the data and facts but eliminating the unnecessary bureaucracy that slows us down. We’re connecting with our employees regularly and we’ve introduced new forums to keep them updated, connected and provide an open forum for questions. We’re already looking at how we sustain these practices beyond this pandemic as new ways of working.
Richard: In the last few weeks, we’ve had to quickly adjust and adapt to this ever-evolving situation. It has really demonstrated our strength as an organization – which comes from the leaders we have in our organization, coast to coast across PepsiCo Canada, who know their communities, customers, and colleagues. We truly have great people on the ground – our frontline associates who have been through a lot of ups and downs in the marketplace – and they have given me the confidence that we can continue to deliver in an advantaged way through this complexity. I’m grateful for our PepsiCo Canada employees who have quickly adapted and overcame challenges to fulfill our important role in the food supply chain.