Food Production Shifts to Basics Due to COVID-19

Consumers’ buying habits have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Consumers’ buying habits have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 6, 2020 — The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food industry are becoming more visible with each day that passes. These effects are now being felt by food manufacturers, who are having to shift what they produce for the industry as demands and buying habits change during the pandemic.

Food manufacturers are now limiting their focus to items that are in high demand so that they can increase output of these items and meet demand. Demand for grocery items is up 400%, particularly those that people need more of as they stay at home, cook at home, and do not eat out as often. Large and popular grocery stores and supermarkets are struggling to keep stock on the shelves, as they are used to a certain amount of supply and demand.

In order to combat this, food manufacturers are shifting their focus in order to streamline the operations of their production lines. Denis Gendron, the president of United Grocers, Inc., has stated that food manufacturers are “doing the items that they can do the fastest that are selling well.”

Commonly purchased items include pasta, which has seen a significant increase in demand over the past four weeks. Italpasta, which normally produces 63 types of pasta, has shifted its focus to the top six pastas that are in high demand right now. These include spaghetti, spaghettini, lasagne, elbows, fusilli, and penne pasta. This illustrates the shift in consumer demand in the current climate of the COVID-19 crisis. As Italpasta president Joseph Vitale states, “People aren’t so fancy right now. They just want pasta.”

Another example is Prairie Flour Mills, which usually manufactures 35 products. Now, they have shifted their focus to producing ordinary flour as it is in the most demand right now by consumers. The consensus among many big-name food manufacturers is that cutting down on the variety of products right now is essential. Getting food out the door and into the hands of customers is vital, especially as grocery stores are struggling to keep shelves stocked.

Once the pandemic passes, many food manufacturers state that they will shift back to their original operations and provide a variety of products again. In the meantime, they will continue to adjust and adapt during this unprecedented time.