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Food supply chain zeros in on consumer preference during pandemic

(L to R): Roxi Beck, with The Center for Food Integrity, Martha Hilton, with Wegmans Food Markets, and Jarrod Gilling, of Cargill Protein, participate in a panel discussion at the 2020 American Farm Bureau Federation convention.

“If we fail to pay attention to consumer preferences or hear their concerns, we lose in the long run,” says Terri Moore, American Farm Bureau Federation vice president of communications.

The food service industry quickly adapted to consumer preference at the onset of coronavirus. Industry experts analyzed consumer behavior during “The Post-COVID Consumer” breakout session at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s virtual convention.

Martha Hilton, Wegmans Food Markets’ vice president of produce and floral, says innovation helped the American supermarket chain survive the coronavirus pandemic.

“Every company has growth plans on how they’re going to change technology and embrace that as they go forward. For us, it happened overnight,” Hilton says. “We had to learn how to service our customers quickly, without them entering our stores. Yes, they still come into our stores. However, we needed to have a solution for them if they weren’t comfortable.”

“As of February of 2020, only five-percent of households were buying groceries online. And in March, that jumped up to 30-percent,” says Roxi Beck, The Center for Food Integrity’s consumer engagement director. This has not only impacted grocery retailers, but companies supplying food.

The key to supply chain resiliency moving forward is “enhancing communications and nimbleness,” says Jarrod Gilling, Cargill Protein’s president of business operations and supply chain. Gilling foresees additional challenges in the months ahead, and encourages everyone in the food supply chain to remain calm.

“As we go into turbulent times, don’t panic,” Gilling says. “The market is going to change and be disruptive. But don’t panic. Step back and look at your options.”

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