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March 16, 2020

Coronavirus – food company employees asked to work from home as crisis worsens

Kraft Heinz and Cloetta are making changes to their working methods in an attempt to lessen the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their operations.

By Leonie Barrie

Kraft Heinz and Cloetta have both asked some employees to work from home in an attempt to lessen the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their operations.

US food giant Kraft Heinz said yesterday (15 March) it has asked office employees to work from home as the coronavirus continues to spread.

It said it expects employees to work from home except those who cannot perform their roles remotely, adding that the company is not planning to close its offices.

News agency Reuters quoted the firm as saying: “Until further notice, all employee air travel, both international and domestic, is restricted unless it is business-critical.”

Likewise, Swedish confectionery business Cloetta has introduced travel bans and meeting restrictions and asked employees in some offices to work from home.

“To date, we have not seen any major interruptions in our own supply chain and all our eight factories are operating at near to normal capacity,” it said.

The company said it has contingency plans in place to reduce the risk of interruption in supply of necessary raw materials or products from third parties. 

“Where relevant, Cloetta is temporarily increasing buffer stocks of raw materials and finished products at risk,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Dairy Innovation Summit, due to take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the end of this month, is the latest food show to fall victim to the virus. It has been called off and is now likely to take place later in the year.

David Jones, from conference organiser Arena International, said: “We must comply with the current restrictions and believe postponing the event is in the best interests of all concerned. 

“We would like to be clear that this is a postponement, and not a cancellation, and we look forward to hosting Dairy Innovation Summit later in 2020.”

And US confectionery heavyweight Hershey has announced it has temporarily closed its Hershey’s Chocolate World attractions in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and in Times Square, New York City.

Hershey’s Chocolate World locations in Niagara, Canada, and Las Vegas, Nevada, will remain open until further notice in line with the current situation in these local communities.

Suzanne Jones, vice president, The Hershey Experience, said: “The health and safety of our employees and store guests is our top priority. To date, there have been no confirmed cases of any of our Hershey employees having contracted the virus, but we are taking these steps to protect our employees and guests and in line with precautions happening in both communities.”

In the UK, stockpiling is leaving many supermarket shelves empty of pasta, tinned tomatoes, baked beans and milk, as well as non-food items such as painkillers, toilet rolls and washing-up liquid.

UK ‘big four’ supermarket bosses have once again stressed there is no need to panic.

In an email sent to customers over the weekend, Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe said: “I wanted to personally reassure you that we have more food and other essential items coming to us from manufacturers and into our warehouses and distribution centres.

“If we all shop just for the food that we and our families need, there will be enough for everyone.”

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