[Podcast] COVID-19: Impact on Food & Beverage Consumer Goods
The ongoing impact of COVID-19 has shown how crucial it is to have an organized and functional food supply chain in the United States. Despite the effects of the pandemic, food production continues to run at a high level. The people that play a role in our food supply chain are no doubt essential--everyone from the truck drivers that supply raw materials and deliver products to our supermarkets, to the food quality personnel that ensure the food that gets delivered to our grocery stores is safe to consume.
We spoke with Mariana Lopez, a consultant specializing in the food industry, to learn more about how the industry is faring during this pandemic.
Hi everyone and thank you for tuning in. Today, we are joined by Mariana Lopez. She is a consultant in our Food & Beverage team, and we’re gonna be learning about the impacts that she has seen on the industry. But before we jump right in, Mariana, could you introduce yourself to everyone and tell us about your role at Progressive?
Hi. I am the quality and food science consultant here at Progressive, specifically within the food and beverage industry and consumer goods as well. I’ve been here for three years and I recruit for roles like quality managers, regulatory affairs managers, scientists, and product developers, so really everything within food science.
Thank you so much for sharing. Since COVID-19 began impacting our economy, we’ve seen the unemployment rate in the U.S. really skyrocket--the worst we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Can you tell us a bit about how employment in the food and beverage industry has been impacted?
We’ve been really thankful that the food and beverage industry hasn’t been impacted as bad as we thought. Food and beverage is essential to the world, and people need to continue buying groceries, so most of our customers are still operating business as usual when it comes to the manufacturing side. The only difference is we have seen a halt on new project hiring until this is over.
As soon as COVID-19 began impacting the US, all of us at Progressive began working from home. How has the food industry adapted to this new way of working? Have there been any unique challenges they’ve been facing?
With this business being mostly essential, it’s crucial that all of these facilities remain working and remain pushing out the products we need in our houses. So, most of our clients are continuing to work with extra precautions: checking everyone’s temperature before going into the facilities, staying six feet apart, sanitizing their hands, using extra PPE equipment now more than ever. But again, everyone is kind of still working. Corporate employees are trying to operate business as usual just from working remotely.
You mentioned that many of these roles are essential. When it comes to recruitment and making sure that those roles are filled during this time, has there been any advice that you’ve given to your clients?
Most of the companies we’ve talked to, a lot of the conversations are more like “how do we retain our current talent and current contractors in these hard times instead of focusing on bringing in new employees?” Take care of who they have now and be there as a family during these hard times.
Now, in addition to the impact on our workforce, we’re also hearing about the pandemic’s impact on our food supply chain. I went to the supermarket the other day and I noticed that shelves aren’t as empty as they were a couple of months ago, but the stores are still placing quantity limits on certain items. What impact have you seen, and can you share with us what measures companies are taking to ensure that supermarket shelves are fully stocked?
The Food and Beverage companies that are in the supermarkets are the ones doing the best. What they’re doing right now is ramping up production. Business as usual. Just trying to bring on extra employees that they already have instead of bringing on new employees. A lot of my clients have been opening up their facilities 24/7 so they’re having people come in on night shifts as well, they’re paying overtime, increasing production lines. Trying to increase headcount and increase production with the people they have now.
You work with many people in food science and food quality. Can you tell us about the changes you’ve seen when it comes to food safety in the United States?
We’ve seen a lot of new safety and regulatory changes when it comes to being cleaner and more organic. A lot of people are trying to move into more healthy eating and more natural foods, so we’ve seen an increase in companies moving into healthier standards and healthier products. That’s what the focus has been on over the past couple of years.
We’re starting to see a couple states reopening and ending lock-downs. Of course, Texas, where you and I are both located, has been one of the first states. I don’t know when or if things will ever return back to the way they were, but I’m interested to know how the food industry will evolve. What changes do you see in the food industry’s future?
I think you’ll be seeing a lot more automation and a lot more safety implementation. Obviously these companies are safe now, but more of staying six feet apart or working on different shifts rather than having so many people in the facilities. But I think the biggest thing that we will be seeing is a change in automation.
That definitely does seem to be the trend right now.I’m seeing across numerous industries that automation right now is being really embraced and A.I. projects are actually being sped up.
Mariana, this has been extremely insightful and informative. I thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. Before I let you go, is there anything else you’d like to share?
I think it’s been amazing to see all these really big companies adapting and changing to a new way of living and still producing all the food that we need. It’s been really incredible, and incredible to be a part of it.
Thank you Mariana for your time today and thank you all for listening.
About Our Guest
Mariana Lopez is a recruitment consultant at Progressive. Her areas of expertise include Quality Management and R&D within the Consumer Goods industry across the United States.
On working with job seekers:
"I spend time with each and every candidate to gain a great understanding of their skills, motivations and career advancements. This ensures that I can present them with the rewarding employment opportunities they seek and support them throughout the recruitment process."
On working with hiring managers:
"I provide my clients with the luxury of choice by sourcing and supplying shortlists of suitable candidates for every vacancy within the shortest space of time, while providing exceptional market insight and consultancy services."
If you'd like to get in touch with Mariana, she can be reached at [email protected].