From the Frontlines: Battling COVID-19

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From the Frontlines: Battling COVID-19

By Dan Ochwat - 03/19/2020

The Store Brands editorial team is reaching out to industry leaders on the challenges they are facing during the coronavirus pandemic. Both retailers and private brand product manufacturers are keeping employees safe and the supply chain moving. Here are their stories:

Allen Benz, chief executive, Snack Innovations, Piscataway, NJ.

“We are busy at work; running our three shifts per day, 24/hours a day as usual, and in fact actually turning on more production lines than normally. We’ve put in place precautionary measures as directed by the CDC and are enforcing strict hygiene protocols as well as monitoring the health of all our employees. I believe demand for food in general is higher than usual as a result of COVID-19, due to what appears to be widespread consumer panic and are buying all essential products on store shelves.”

Snack Innovations manufactures a wide range of better-for-you products for private label: sweet, savory, baked or fried snacks in processed grains or whole grains.


Andrew Whelan, a spokesperson for Albertsons, Boise, Idaho “First of all, we are deeply grateful to our store associates for their tireless dedication during this critical time. I appreciate you highlighting them. They are working long hours under difficult circumstances to make sure their neighbors have the food, medicine, and essential goods they need. We couldn’t be more proud of our entire team.” Whelan said stores are open and ready to serve, but with quantity limits in place and a reduction in variety to focus on the essentials. “We’re refilling high-demand products as quickly as we can through our robust and sophisticated supply chain. Many of our stores receive a delivery of products every day... There is no shortage of food in the supply chain. Suppliers have plenty of the essential food, medicines, and goods that all our communities need.”


Erik Juch, vice president of sales, Fine Foods International, New York

“Our business is firing on all cylinders. Our production lines are still open and working overtime to fill all orders from our customers. … We have been implementing additional hygiene measurements in all parts of our facilities. Once the daily routine has settled in — your refrigerator can only hold so many frozen pizzas — we suspect that the buying will go back to normal. It is very difficult for all suppliers to cope with the short-term additional orders but we are trying our best to satisfy all of our customers.”


Robert Ippaso, managing partner, Leonetti’s Frozen Foods, Philadelphia

“We were designated as not only an ‘essential facility’ but also a ‘critical’ one, owing to the fact that we supply the military as well as retailers nationally. The upshot of this is that we were tasked to continue working at all costs, as if on a war footing, when instead the rest of the state is pretty much hunkered at home."

Ippaso said it's been challenging for the production teams and staff at headquarters to grasp "the sense of urgency and even panic that both the government and media (especially) is fostering; but with sensible explanation and a full set of added preventative security and safety measures enacted, everyone embraced the need to keep producing."

He added: "Clearly we monitor the situation by the day and are very engaged to ensure the safety of our teams as well as doing all we can to continue producing and helping where and as we can.”

(If you would like to share your story, on specific challenges your company is facing email Dan Ochwat: [email protected])