Food Makers Add Staff, Capacity as Pandemic Persists
By Heather Haddon
Food makers including Campbell Soup Co. and Kellogg Co. said
huge demand during the coronavirus pandemic has taught them to
focus on bolstering supplies of their most popular products.
Big food companies are working to increase their output and
protect workers as the virus continues to spread, representing an
opportunity for elevated sales to persist but also a risk to
operations if the public-health crisis hurts their own
Campbell's Chief Executive Mark Clouse said huge demand for
products including Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers prompted the
company to expand production and hire even more workers than it
might need at one time to compensate for employees who might be out
sick or quarantining.
"We know the demand for goldfish is going to continue to be at
an elevated level," Mr. Clouse said at The Wall Street Journal's
Global Food Forum, held virtually on Monday.
Unilever PLC has invested in housing for workers in regions such
as the Middle East where the pandemic has created especially unsafe
labor conditions due to overcrowding, said Hanneke Faber, company
president of food and refreshments. The spread of the virus forced
Unilever to close a plant or two during the pandemic and to shift
production of certain products to other parts of the world for some
time, she said.
"They look like hospitals these days," Ms. Faber said of the
company's factories where, as in other food plants, protective gear
and social-distancing protocols are now being used extensively.
"Those people are the real heroes of the food system these
Kellogg's CEO, Steve Cahillane, said the company is sending home
information to workers to encourage them to stay safe when they
leave their facilities, including as the winter approaches and
holiday travel is expected to begin.
He said Kellogg also sees the pandemic as an opportunity to get
new and lapsed consumers to try its products. "We must invest into
it," Mr. Cahillane said. "It's an opportunity as people are trying
our brands for the first time."
Heading into the winter, retailers are stockpiling staple foods
to prepare for potential jumps in demand. Grocery demand has
moderated since the spring, allowing manufacturers to catch up with
production. They are also investing in automation to reduce
exposure to workers that can lead to plant closures.
Write to Heather Haddon at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 05, 2020 15:10 ET (19:10 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.