Roisin O'Shea, head of Food & Drink sector for Bank of Ireland has put together a checklist of best practice for food and foodservice busniesses in these challenging times.
Speaking to thinkbusiness.ie, she outlined that the importance of the food industry to national wellbeing has been underlined by the priority given food workers and grocery retail in the current situation.
Ireland is fortunate in being one of the most food -secure countries in the world – second overall in a recent survey of 133 countries.
“Allocate time to plan for what a post-Covid-19 world will look like”
While the sector as a whole has not been affected as severely as industries such as hospitality or tourism, nonetheless food companies have had to adapt to the new reality and take steps to ensure the survival of their businesses.
Here is a checklist of best practice for food businesses during the Covid-19 crisis:
However, additional distancing should be put in place to facilitate social distancing guidelines. This may mean modification to current processes – up to and including the provision of perspex screens or the slowing down or decoupling of production processes or running extended shifts. The FSAI (Food Standards Authority of Ireland) has updated guidelines around food preparation and Covid-19
Stagger break times to ensure distance is maintained.
Recheck staff details so swift contact tracing can be put in place in the event of a case, particularly if this should occur out of hours.
Communication is paramount. For production sites where different languages are prevalent consider whether adaptations are needed to get the message across. As many office staff or now working remotely, it is important that managers retain regular daily and weekly touchpoints to identify any issues.
Lastly, look to reallocate staff from non–essential areas to cover additional demand where possible. For example, salesforce covering foodservice channels should be moved to retail.
Therefore, it is prudent for companies to increase their current stocks to cope with any possible issues.
All elements of the supply chain should be reviewed so there is a good understanding of their actual country of origin not just the intermediary who supplies them.
Alternative suppliers should be put in place now, to cope with any timing issues should they arise, between different countries experiencing different levels of Covid-19 lockdown.
Other companies are reviewing their offering to see whether it can be repurposed for retail – this may involve repackaging. If this is not something you can do it might be worth talking to some specialist food repackaging companies who are skilled in this type of outsourced repack. If you don’t have retail relationships in place, consider approaching a retail distributor.
Some of the UK grocers are currently trialling catering size packs. The British Frozen Foods Federation has a platform on their site that links foodservice suppliers (including those in Ireland) with Grocers looking for stock in the UK.
It may also be worth looking at new channels, for example in the UK where home delivery is a more mature market and meal preparation businesses like Gousto and Drop Chef are reporting significant increases in sales.
Covid-19 is accelerating developments in the tech space. With the widespread use of drones, will take-away and out-of-home bounce back into growth spurred by drone delivery?
Who are the new customers that will emerge from this – will the direct to consumer channel accelerate?
How will consumers be feeling when they emerge – will there be a return to nostalgia brands like the post-2008 crash.
If China emerges from the crisis quicker than the west are there more opportunities to increase exports?
Other food companies will be experiencing similar issues so this is a great time to reach out and make new connections.
Roisin O’Shea joined Bank of Ireland in 2019 as head of the Food & Drink Sector. She has held a number of senior commercial positions in both indigenous and multinational consumer goods companies including PepsiCo, Valeo Foods, Carbery, Boyne Valley and Robert Roberts Ltd. Her knowledge base spans end to end product development from procurement and new product development, to branding, marketing and sales achievement. Her most recent role was in the rapidly growing Sports Nutrition Industry. O’Shea holds an MBA from Warwick Business School and Post Graduate qualifications in Digital Business and Digital Marketing.