The holiday season is months away, but food distributors and supermarkets are stockpiling food to prepare for what could be a sales surge if COVID-19 cases rise.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported suppliers and grocers are heeding warnings from some health experts who say the U.S. could see another widespread outbreak of virus cases.
Anthony Hucker, CEO of Southeastern Grocers, a Jacksonville, Florida-based supermarket chain, told WSJ he placed orders for holiday hams and turkeys in June, July and August long before he typically does.
United Natural Foods, a Providence-based food wholesaler, has stacked up on cranberry sauce, herbal tea and cold remedies.
“We started talking about Thanksgiving in June,” President Chris Testa told WSJ. “That’s earlier than we ever have.”
Associated Food Stores, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based cooperative that supplies supermarkets, said it has started to build what it’s calling “pandemic pallets” of sanitizing products so its warehouses will be fully stocked, Darin Peirce, vice president of Retail Operations, told WSJ.
“We will never again operate our business as unprepared for something like this,” he said.
As a result of the experience earlier this year, food distributors and supermarkets are keeping months of stock rather than weeks, WSJ reported.
Back in March, “we didn’t know what we didn’t know,” Chris Lewis, executive vice president of Supply Chain at Ahold Delhaize’s Retail Business Services, told WSJ.
General Mills, a global manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods based in Minnesota, said it still can't keep up with demand for Progresso soup, Betty Crocker cake mixes and Pillsbury refrigerated dough. Production capacity has increased, and 30 outsourcing partners have been hired since March, WSJ reported.
“Even if the consumer can’t find the exact flavor they want, we’ll still have something on the shelf,” General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening said, according to the report.
A PYMNTS survey revealed as the pandemic struck in early March, stores had to contend with supply chain issues, panic buying and safety issues as a stunned public stocked up on essential items.