From the Frontlines: Battling COVID-19

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From the Frontlines: Battling COVID-19

By Dan Ochwat - 03/20/2020

The editorial staff at Store Brands has heard from industry leaders on the challenges they’re facing during the coronavirus pandemic. Read the first volume of responses here. Both retailers and private brand product manufacturers are keeping employees safe and the supply chain moving.

Here are their stories:

Matt Sheriff, senior vice president, Matt’s Cookies, Wheeling, Ill.

“Like all other brands, we are seeing the responsible cancellations of face-to-face meetings. However with technology, many of our customers and potential customers are moving forward, and I believe we should be better for it. Next, we are focused on the health and safety of our customers and that starts with the health and safety of our amazing and dedicated family at Matt’s Cookies. We have always had extremely high standards of cleaning/hygiene protocols, over the past 40 years. We have just increased many of them and taking additional steps to ensure everyone is keeping health and safety top of mind during this time. We have added a few employees to ensure the additional protocols do not disturb or disrupt our day-to-day baking operations.”

Sheriff noted they’re open for business to partner on any cookie projects and making this adjustment with everyone else in this “new normal,” but knows everyone will come out stronger.

An anonymous packaging and label company

“Frank and honest discussion, I think the community of Store Brands should be making plans to address press capacity that’s available in the U.S. Many store brands get labels from shrink sleeves to Litho cut labels in India or China. We would like to make sure they realize contracts on these markets will most likely drive them home to the U.S. for the next six months to years — as the loss of press personnel worldwide will reduce printers.” The reader continued to say that press capacity is getting squeezed with orders being driven into the pipeline to meet minimum order requirements, as inventory levels are depleted. “We have capacity right now, but what will it be like in a week when press personnel start getting sick all over our country. Products need labels?”


Christopher Ratliff, vice president of sales and marketing, Seattle Gourmet Goods, Tukwila, Wash.

“So far, from our perspective, we’ve seen the obvious increase in demand tied into people increasing their shopping due to all of the self-social distancing and closure of restaurants.  On the private brands product we manufacture, we’ve seen large upswings in confection along with the obvious items like dried mushrooms and dried soups that we produce. Our focus right now is on what additional measures we can continue taking to reduce the risk of exposure for our team members, and doing everything we can to accommodate the increased/rush demand. Stay healthy out there!”


Joseph Dutra, president and CEO, Kimmie Candy, Reno, Nev.

“Presently things are okay, but we are seeing what could be the beginning of a much larger disruption in orders. ... Most manufacturers have 30- to 60-day lead times on production and shipping so we will not see the full effect of this coronavirus lockdown, social distancing, closing of all nonessential businesses for another 30 days. The first indication we have seen in the last week is that some of our small wholesale customers have started to delay or cancel orders, because their business was affected by the cruise lines and tourism directly. We have also seen some indication that candy shops that are located in malls around the United States have requested delays in their orders because people are not walking these malls and tourist locations. Some of the supply companies have seen a drop-in business from lack of traffic.” 

Dutra said Kimmie Candy’s base business to distributors and retailers has not been affected yet, but if everyone is in lockdown, there could be a trickle-down effect or delays in orders.