Since the pandemic began, the grocery industry has been at the forefront, rapidly adapting and implementing measures to ensure that Canadians continue to have access to safe food. “In Their Own Words” brings the behind-the-scenes stories of retailers and suppliers to Grocery Business' readers.
Jerry Mancini, president, Consumer Packaged Goods, Dole Foods of Canada
Crisis leadership initiatives
We’ve been working to support communities directly and through associations that we’ve partnered with. All our employees were involved in identifying front line support organizations, and with the help of their efforts Dole has supported hospitals, nursing homes and food banks. In total, we’ve provided more than 100,000 Dole fruit and juice products that have been distributed either as stand-alone products or in meal kits for groups such as Heroes Toronto, Covid Student Support Group, Moisson Montreal, 43 North Restaurant Group, Hand Up Toronto and other associations actively involved in providing support and relief to frontline workers. Some of these contacts will result in longer term support programs.
Dole has always been a leader in corporate social responsibility programs – focussing on employees, communities, the environment and hunger relief. It was an easy pivot to provide support to front line workers. Dole Food’s mantra of Sunshine for all (#sunshineforall) sums up our approach. Sunshine for all means the sun doesn’t discriminate and as a company we envision a world where, regardless of your age, gender or income, everyone has access to healthy products.
On a worldwide basis, Dole formed a COVID-19 taskforce, a centralized group of executives who have been meeting weekly to ensure we’re consistent on supporting employees in our facilities to ensure the safety of our employees and the food we’re producing.
Impact on the supply chain
As part of our safety measures, we are making sure our supply chain to grocery is consistent and we’re working diligently and communicating with our food retail customers to identify their needs and helping them on the front line. Initially, we had some disruptions because of heavy consumer pantry loading and the fact that many of our products come from abroad but we worked diligently to get products to both our customers and consumers to keep disruptions to a minimum.
Obviously, we are seeing a slowing down of our Food Service shipments and to some extent this volume has been replaced by increased retail shipments. We’ve also seen a tremendous pull from online orders and we’re reviewing orders on a daily basis to ensure that we’re treating everyone fairly.
Your business takeaways from this experience
We’re clearly gaining consumer insights, as most companies are, and it will be interesting to see how the longer-term trends develop. We’ve seen a revitalization of interest in shelf-stable foods, so that is bringing new consumers into this category. The pandemic, while terrible, presents new opportunities for centre-of-store because many people are being re-introduced to products they had not thought of in the past, such as shelf-stable ethnic foods and canned foods. So, they’re broadening their palates.
Additionally, historically, millennials have not regularly shopped centre-of-store and now more of them are doing this. How much these changes will continue remains to be seen.
The pandemic will illustrate to retailers the importance of online ordering. Traditionally, Canada has lagged behind the U.S. in online sales. The pandemic has forced consumers to re-evaluate this form of shopping – either through click and collect, or digitally ordering grocery with home delivery – and is gaining in popularity. While normal shopping habits might return after the pandemic, digital shopping habits will definitely expand to new levels post COVID-19.
There is a phenomenal amount of learning both manufacturers and retailers are getting from this experience and we’ll have to work hand-in-hand to figure out the new normal as we move forward post-pandemic.
At Dole, we are already transforming our organization from a packaged food business to a health and wellness business with functional snacks and beverages and the changing shopping behaviours due to the pandemic is pushing our drive for innovation and we’ll work with the insights we’re gaining which will serve as a basis for future production development.