Farm sectors looking for seasonal workers

Farm sectors looking for seasonal workers

just-food's coronavirus live blog is your one-stop shop for news on how the Covid-19 outbreak is impacting the world's food industry.

3 April

Sanderson Farms cuts output estimate as Covid-19 wrecks havoc on foodservice

Sanderson Farms, the US-based poultry major that has had 15 positive Covid-19 cases, has lowered its production estimate for the year as the virus wrecks havoc on its mainstay foodservice business.

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Germany loosens restrictions on foreign agricultural workers

Germany has eased its Covid-19 restrictions on foreign workers to help its agriculture industry.

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ABF management take cut in pay

Associated British Foods, which owns bread maker Allied bakeries and Primark clothing stores, said its chief executive and finance chief will take a cut in salaries to help in the battle against coronavirus.

CEO George Weston and finance director John Bason requested a temporary 50% reduction in pay, which has been approved by the board. In addition, bonuses due to executive directors will not be paid, while Paul Marchant, the CEO of Primark, has also requested his base pay be cut temporarily by 50%.   

The non-executive directors of the ABF board, including chairman Michael McLintock, have decided their fees should be reduced temporarily by 25%. 

"The board, including the executive management team, believes that these steps are appropriate given its expectation that full-year earnings will now be much lower than envisaged at the start of the financial year," ABF said in a statement. "The board is acutely aware that many Primark employees will see their livelihoods affected by Covid-19."

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Gluten-free major Dr. Schär has decided to give production workers a 15% bonus for each hour worked during the crisis.

"As a family business, we take it for granted to support our employees in these critical times," Dr. Schär CFO Brigitte Kurz said. "For our employees, simply taking all the necessary safety precautions to master this challenge did not seem sufficient to us."

Coronavirus - Agropur cuts staff levels

Canadian dairy cooperative Agropur is putting some non-essential workers on temporarily leave and eliminating other positions as a result of coronavirus.

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2 April

Covid-19 - India's food industry hit by production, supply disruption

As Raghvendra Verma, our correspondent in New Delhi reports, India's packaged food industry has been hit hard by the country's 21-day national lockdown, with most factories closed and their supply chains disrupted, leading to distribution effectively being suspended nationwide.

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PepsiCo to donate US$45m to coronavirus fight

US food and beverages giant PepsiCo is putting up US$45m to help fight the global battle against coronavirus, including buying protective gear for frontline workers.

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Our contributing editor Ben Cooper has spoken to Tim Rycroft, COO of UK industry body Food and Drink Federation, to hear his reflections on how the sector has coped with coronavirus thus far. (FREE TO READ).

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European dairy body calls for EU help against impact of Covid-19

The European Dairy Association (EDA) has asked the European Commission (EC) to help to protect the sector against the impact of coronavirus.

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Bakkavor suspends financial guidance amid coronavirus uncertainty

Bakkavor, which warned in February the UK food business was seeing a "significant impact" from coronavirus, is now pulling financial guidance and suspending its annual dividend payment.

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BRF to hire thousands to maintain production during Covid-19

Brazilian meat giant BRF has announced that it is hiring more than 2,000 people to maintain production and supply during the coronavirus outbreak.

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US food group General Mills has announced measures to help it deal with Covid-19, including asking office staff to help out on production lines.

It has also announced enhanced benefits for plant employees, including a daily bonus, and said it will contribute US$5m in charitable grants to support food access in its key global markets and support for "our manufacturing communities" around the world.

CEO Jeff Harmening said: "Our most important objectives are the continued health and safety of our employees and our ongoing ability to serve our consumers around the world. We see it as imperative that we help ensure a steady and reliable food supply for people and pets."

1 April

The UK's Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has linked up with job recruitment app Syft to support members during the Covid-19 crisis.

The trade body said the partnership will offer a "lifeline" by helping to fill vacancies across the food and drink supply chain.

Syft will work with the FDF's food and drink members to help them access a database of more than 33,000 workers to fill essential jobs.

FDF's chief operating officer Tim Rycroft said: "The FDF wanted to provide a solution for those who may be struggling to find work from other sectors and move them into food and drink where possible and Syft provides this opportunity. We hope this is the first of similar collaborations so sectors can share expertise and resources while the country navigates its way through this difficult time."

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Covid-19 - Lamb Weston latest food company to pull guidance

Lamb Weston Holdings, the US potato products manufacturer, has become the latest company to pull its annual guidance amid the Covid-19 crisis.

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From yesterday's first-quarter results conference call from US giant McCormick & Co., Simon Harvey reports on how the French's mustard and Schwartz herbs owner is trying to adapt to the crisis.

McCormick predicts another difficult quarter but D2C sales cushion Covid-19 impact

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31 March

Bakkavor under fire over sick pay, social distancing

UK private-label food firm Bakkavor is facing criticism over its business practices during the coronavirus crisis.

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Conagra Brands expects to exceed guidance spurred by Covid-19-led retail gains

While many packaged food companies are withdrawing financial guidance because of the uncertainties related to coronavirus, US food major Conagra Brands expects to exceed its previously announced outlook.

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McCormick withdraws financial guidance as Covid-19 weighs on sales

McCormick & Co. has withdrawn its full-year financial guidance as the US-based spices and sauces maker said first-quarter sales were pressured by the coronavirus outbreak. 

The French's mustard and Schwartz herbs owner said the negative impact on sales from Covid-19 in the three months ended 29 February amounted to 3%, but added the company is "well-positioned" to deal with the crisis due to its "stable cash generation and access to liquidity".

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UK grocery spending jumped 28% amid Covid-19 rush - Kantar

Consumers in the UK increased their grocery shop over a four-week period as the coronavirus crisis caused more people to eat at home as restaurants and entertainment outlets closed to contain its spread.

Data from Kantar for the fours weeks to 22 March, the day before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown, showed the average UK household spent an extra GBP62.92 (US$77.73) on food shopping during the period. The rise in spending was more pronounced in London, where it climbed 26%.

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South Africa's Astral Foods has hit out at "fake" Covid-19 claims. The poultry producer Astral Foods has slammed a "fake report", circulated on social media and depicted as a "television news type screenshot", that said some of its employees had tested positive for coronavirus - and that the country's health minister has ordered the shutdown of one of the company's production facilities.

Astral insisted the report was "false", reporting the claims to a government platform, fakenewsalert@dtps.gov.za.

"No Astral employee has tested positive for the Coronavirus COVID-19, and Astral condemns this fake news in the strongest possible terms.  The company would like to assure all its stakeholders including shareholders, consumers, customers, suppliers and employees that this false news story is completely unfounded," the company said in a statement.

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Mars to reopen Netherlands plant after Covid-19-related shutdown

Mars will reopen a chocolate production plant in the Netherlands today (31 March) shut down around a week ago due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Lindt & Sprungli abandons 2020 financial targets in light of Covid-19

Swiss chocolate manufacturer Lindt & Sprüngli has said its 2020 financial targets are "no longer valid" as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Brazil's JBS 'cuts beef production' at US plant

Brazilian meat giant JBS reportedly plans to cut beef production at a facility in Pennsylvania in the US for two weeks as a precautionary measure against the deadly coronavirus.

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Australia's TasFoods pulls guidance, cuts wasabi operations

In Australia, listed business TasFoods has withdrawn its financial guidance due to the global uncertainties from the coronavirus outbreak and is having to reduce wasabi production as foodservice sales decline.

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Woolworths Ltd, Australia's largest grocer, has announced plans to "temporarily" change its policy on paying small suppliers.

At present, small trade suppliers to Woolworths' supermarkets division are paid within 14 days. Across the rest of the retailer's business, payment terms for small suppliers do not exceed 30 days.

Woolworths said today (31 March) its payment terms would be "aligned" across the group and will not exceed 14 days. 

Stephen Harrison, Woolworths' CFO, said: "We recognise that right now many of our small supplier partners are facing additional challenges in the current climate and we want to do our bit to further help them out by shortening payment terms across the group.

"By paying our small suppliers faster, we hope to ease some of the financial pressure many of them are currently experiencing amid the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic."

30 March

Canadian meat processor Olymel shuts Yamachiche plant amid Covid-19 cases

Olymel, the pork and poultry processor that is part of Canada's Solio Cooperative Group, has temporarily closed a plant in Quebec due to a number of Covid-19 cases among employees.

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An opinion piece from just-food news editor Simon Harvey in the wake of Greencore's trading update (and the subsequent fall in its share price) this morning:

As Greencore gets punished, is it time for UK stock market suspension, too?

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Our free-to-read round-up of the major political and economic updates related to Covid-19 has just gone live and can be found here.

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UK union calls for social distancing in food factories

The UK and Ireland's largest trade union, Unite, has called for a mandatory two-metre social distancing to be put in place for those working in the food industry.

It has urged George Eustice, the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), to introduce the measure to protect those working on production lines in processing plants during the coronavirus crisis.

Unite's call comes after last week's walkout by workers at meat processor Moy Park's site in Portadown, Northern Ireland, over concerns about health and safety protections for the workforce.

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In the spirit of offering what support we can during the crisis, our publisher GlobalData has put together a free report to help you understand the outbreak, its economic impact and implications for specific sectors.

You can download it here.

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A new working week and there have been a series of developments over the weekend and on Monday.

UK manufacturer Greencore suspends guidance, puts some workers on leave

Greencore is suspending financial guidance amid the uncertainty from coronavirus as the Ireland-based business said it is seeing a "marked reduction" at the retail level for its food-to-go categories.

The London-listed convenience foods manufacturer said in an exchange filing today (30 March) it is "tightening" its production network for food-to-go products and putting associated workers on leave by means of the government's job retention scheme recently announced to support businesses through the crisis.

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UK charity Concordia, which recruits seasonal labour for the country's agricultural industry, sounds a warning on the lack of workers available to pick crops.

According to UK newspaper The Observer, Concordia has highlighted the problems of recruiting staff from countries that have closed borders to try to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

You can read the full story here.

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2 Sisters CEO in video appeal for workers to "feed the nation"

2 Sisters Food Group has created a video featuring chief executive Ronald Kers appealing for workers to fill "several hundred" roles as the UK-based poultry and ready meals producer faces a surge in demand from the Covid-19 crisis.

Last week, a spokesperson for the owner of Fox's Biscuits and Holland's Pies said the company had launched a recruitment drive across its business for "several hundred" roles.

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Vitasoy blames Covid-19 for profit warning

Vitasoy International Holdings, the Hong Kong-listed, plant-based food and beverage business, has issued a profit warning. It said its sales have been hit by the enforcement of measures linked to Covid-19 and social unrest in the territory.

The firm, which makes products such as soya milk and tofu under its own name, told the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) in a statement it expects to record a "substantial decrease" in profit attributable to shareholders for the year ending 31 March.

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M. Dias Branco sets up Covid-19 crisis committee

Brazilian pasta and biscuits maker M. Dias Branco has revealed it has established a crisis committee to help it steer a path through the coronavirus crisis.

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Canadian meatpacker Harmony Beef halted slaughter on Friday (27 March) due to a positive Covid-19 test from one of its workers, it has been revealed.

News agency Reuters reports that its Balzac, Alberta packing plant was closed after the company was informed by Alberta's health department that a worker who had not been on the job for days had tested positive, The company then sent the other workers in his part of the slaughter area home for 14 days, even though they did not display symptoms. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has kept some inspectors from work, due to the Harmony worker's positive result.

CFIA said it did not provide inspection services on Friday as a result. Federally-regulated slaughter plants are not allowed to operate without inspectors present.

Harmony was hoping to fully re-open today pending talks with CFIA.

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Unsurprisingly, more trade shows have announced their cancellation or postponement.

This year's Natural & Organic Products Europe, which takes place annually in London, has been cancelled.

The organiser has said the next edition will be on 18 and 19 April 2021 at the city's ExCel centre, which is being converted by the UK government into an emergency field hospital.

Meanwhile, the organisers of the Free From Functional & Health Ingredients and Free From Packaging events, which were to take place at the RAI Amsterdam from 24 to 25 June, will be postponed to 24-25 November.

27 March

Our free-to-read round-up of the major political and economic updates related to Covid-19 has just gone live and can be found here.

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Dairy major Saputo eyes post-coronavirus M&A

Saputo, the international dairy group, believes there will be more opportunity for acquisitions in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Nomad Foods sees Covid-19 sales boost in Italy

Nomad Foods, the UK-based frozen-food specialist which owns the Findus and Iglo brands, has seen its market share increase in Italy as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

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French dairy giant Danone, has said it is "taking radical measures" to strengthen the resilience of its teams and value chain.

CEO Emmanuel Faber announced on social media a financial support package of EUR250m (US$275.1m) for the 15,000 small businesses in its "global ecosystem" (farmers, suppliers, service providers).

Faber said all employment contracts are secured and wages guaranteed for the 100,000 Danone employees worldwide until 30 June and that there is "extensive coverage" (health, childcare, quarantine) for all employees worldwide.

He added that there would be a specific bonus for all employees working on site during the pandemic.

Coronavirus stops UK baker Finsbury's earnings guidance

Finsbury Food Group, the UK bakery-products supplier, today (27 March) warned the coronavirus outbreak meant it could not provide investors with guidance on the company's earnings.

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Covid-19 - Nestle staff to get three months pay

Nestlé, the world's largest food company, has set out what it will pay staff affected by "temporary stoppages" caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

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Orkla has announced it will provide a "preliminary sales update" for the first quarter of 2020 on 17 April "in light of the Covid-19 situation".

The company's full first-quarter results will be announced on 5 May.

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PepsiCo has re-opened a temporarily closed Frito-Lay plant in the US. The food and beverages giant had shut its Frito-Lay snacks plant in Modesto, California, after a number of employees showed signs of coronavirus systems but it has now reopened.

The company said it took precautionary steps to identify and notify individuals who had worked closely with the affected employees who went into self-quarantine for the required 14 days on full pay, according to a statement. 

After conducting "deep cleaning" of the site it reopened on the 25 March and all staff that could not go into work during the closure will also receive full pay. A spokesperson for PepsiCo would not reveal the length of time the plant was closed for.

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European dairy giant Arla Foods has issued a Covid-19-related message to its farmer-owners and the wider market.

Peter Tuborgh, CEO of the Denmark-based cooperative said: "I have been in the dairy sector throughout my working life and have experienced quite a few crises. But this one is absolutely unparalleled."

He said the business has two main priorities during this crisis.

"The first is to protect the health and welfare of our employees - ie. both the employees at Arla's farms and colleagues who work at our dairies, in the distribution and in our offices. We follow the guidance of national health authorities and governments and have taken the necessary measures to protect our employees," he said.

"The second is to keep our production going - to secure our supply chain so that we continue to collect milk from all our farmers and maintain a steady flow of dairy products to customers and consumers."

Tuborgh said the company is prioritising the supply of the products that are most important to people at this time. 

"As the virus peaks around the various countries and regions, we expect our system to be further burdened. We constantly monitor and manage potential risks, have solid action plans in place and are confident that our core activities will continue to be stable," he said.

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Netherlands-based Vion Food Group has said in its outlook for the rest of this year that coronavirus is creating "major uncertainties" in the foodservice part of its business.

The group, best known for its meat products but which has recently moved into the plant-based arena, said in a market update that the outbreak has created a major change in consumption patterns as people are no longer eating out but are eating at home. 

"The sale of meat to restaurants and hotels has come to a standstill, while deliveries to supermarkets have significantly increased. The turnover of convenience meat products, such as minced meat, is increasing in comparison to more luxurious products," it said.

"These shifts have a major impact on the valorisation of meat, causing the relationship between purchase and selling prices to shift as well."

Vion said it is doing everything in its power to responsibly continue production and is "working in close cooperation with governments in the Netherlands and Germany to keep the supply of food up to par during this crisis".

26 March

Across our portfolio of publications, today we've kicked off a round-up of the key, global, political developments in response to the outbreak.

The daily digest also includes need-to-know commentary from international political and economic institutions.

And, importantly, it's free-to-read.

Covid-19 crisis briefing - key daily updates from governments and commentators, 26 March

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Moy Park sees staff walk out over Covid-19 safety fears

UK meat processor Moy Park has seen workers at one of its plants stage a walkout over Covid-19 safety fears.

The Northern Ireland-based company, owned by US poultry giant Pilgrim's Pride, said 100 workers downed tools to stage a 15-minute walkout at its Seagoe, Portadown, plant yesterday (25 March), although trade union Unite claimed the figure was closer to 1,000.

Muller in UK and Ireland recruitment drive

Müller, the German dairy giant, is looking to take on an additional 300 employees in the UK and Ireland to cope with extra demand during the Covid-19 outbreak.

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2 Sisters taking on "several hundred" workers to meet demand

2 Sisters Food Group is hiring "several hundred" workers across its UK-based businesses – poultry, bakery and meal solutions – to cope with the upsurge in demand from coronavirus.

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Brazilian meat giant JBS has said it does not see any major impact from having to switch business from foodservice to retail.

Responding to analysts' questions in a post-2019 results conference call, the company - which revealed that 10% of its global business is in the foodservice channel - said the drop off in foodservice business as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak will have no impact on margins "as long as total consumption does not change".

It added: "In Brazil, for example, where we make hamburgers for the chains, when they reduce the volumes we can transfer that easily to retail."

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Nestlé has joined forces with charities the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in a response to Covid-19.

In a statement, the Switzerland-based food giant said: "We care deeply for people and for the communities in which we operate, and we have an essential role to play during the Covid-19 crisis. Food and beverages help keep people healthy and enhance their quality of life. We care about our responsibility to provide good nutrition, especially for the most vulnerable in society - children, the elderly and those struggling with illness."

Nestlé also said it is "working tirelessly" to ensure that supply is maintained. It said it has implemented enhanced safety measures at all its sites, with particular focus on frontline workers in its factories, quality labs and distribution centres.

"Also, where needed, we are offering free meals and transport for staff to help reduce the risk they fall ill. In addition, we have put in place generous sick leave arrangements for those who contract the virus and will provide cash loans or advances for those in financial distress," it said.

25 March

This afternoon, we ran a piece featuring four SMEs operating in the UK asking what impacts they have felt from the outbreak so far and how they are trying to adapt.

You can read the piece - for free - below:

"We're all in the same boat. Stay level-headed and positive" - UK and Irish food SMEs on coping with coronavirus

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Analyst predicts 20% food-at-home sales surge in US

Investment research company Sanford Bernstein has reported that US-centric food companies are experiencing a "major surge in demand" as panic buying has led to surging sales growth across the country. 

Hilton Food Group results delayed but all facilities remain open

UK-based Hilton Food Group has announced a delay in the publication of its annual results as a result of coronavirus but said all its facilities remain open despite the crisis. Hilton is the first UK food group to delay the release of its results since the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), wrote to companies intending to publish preliminary financial statements in the next few days asking them to delay their planned publication because of Covid-19-linked uncertainty.

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Keytone sees increased demand for milk powder products

Keytone Dairy said it is experiencing a surge in demand for its milk powder products both from its branded customer base and also private-label clients in the New Zealand-based firm's domestic and international markets.

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London-based baby food and infant formula firm Piccolo has opened an online 'shop' to help parents who are struggling to buy baby and toddler nutrition products from their usual retail outlets because of Covid-19-linked pressure on supplies. The company's products can now be ordered directly from its website.

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Australia's Beston Global Food Co. said it is continuing to experience solid demand for its products notwithstanding some down-turn in activity in foodservice outlets across the country in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It said retail demand is strong for mozzarella cheese and for meat products produced by its Provincial Food Group in particular, through supermarkets and home delivery services.

The company recorded revenues of AUD51.2m (US$30.9m) in the first half of this 2019-20 financial year and expects revenues in H2 to be "at least of the same order, pending any unforeseen consequences from the current pandemic".

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Foodservice distributor US Foods has announced it is reducing costs because of the impact the Covid-19 outbreak has had on the channel.

CEO Pietro Satriano said: "While the full business impact of Covid-19 is not yet known, we are taking immediate action to reduce our costs to match the slowdown we're seeing in restaurant, hospitality and education case volume. We are also leveraging our supply chain resources to support the retail industry as they experience unprecedented increases in consumer demand."

US Foods said it believes its strong balance sheet will enable it to weather the economic impact of Covid-19. It has drawn US$1bn under its existing revolving credit facilities to retain as cash on hand. 

24 March

Unilever makes Covid-19 pledge to SME suppliers

Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever has pledged to help customers and suppliers that are struggling because of the Covid-19 outbreak. In an announcement today, the Marmite and Ben & Jerry's ice cream maker said it will offer EUR500m (US$541.5m) of cash flow relief to "support livelihoods across its extended value chain".

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Aryzta envisages "material impact" as conditions deteriorate

Some less-than-good news from Aryzta this morning, with the bakery giant saying it now expects a "material impact" on its business this year from coronavirus as market conditions and "prospects" have worsened over the past week or more.

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UK food industry SMEs "in crisis" following retailer de-listings

A survey of UK-based food industry SMEs found they are increasingly pivoting to e-commerce as retailers de-prioritise their products to concentrate on core offerings during the Covid-19 crisis.

London-based consultancy Young Foodies questioned senior brand representatives from 45 small- and medium-sized food businesses and found SMEs are dealing with major challenges to their businesses and livelihoods and are concerned they might be faced with a "war-time grocery market" within weeks.

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Only minority of UK shoppers stockpiling - Kantar

A survey looking at retail shopping habits in the UK during the coronavirus crisis revealed extra demand in supermarkets is largely being driven by people adding a few additional items to their baskets and making more trips rather than shoppers buying the same item in bulk.

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Mondelez looking to boost employee numbers to meet Covid-19 demand

US food giant Mondelez International said it expects to hire 1,000 additional "frontline" employees in its domestic market.

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Sanderson Farms instigates further safety measures after employee tests positive for virus

US chicken business Sanderson Farms has initiated precautionary measures after one of its employees tested positive for coronavirus.

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Tulip, the UK pork processor owned by US meat major Pilgrim's Pride, is preparing to create temporary job opportunities. 

Openings will be available in production roles and "other key roles to provide cover when necessary", Tulip said.

Rachel Baldwin, the company's vice president for human resources, said: "Tulip is looking to ensure we have enough people in place to keep our manufacturing sites operating as and when people take time out of work to care for themselves and their loved ones. This is an unprecedented time for the UK food industry and we'd like to thank all of our colleagues and staff across the sector who are doing an incredible job to keep up with the current high demand and keeping shelves stocked across the UK."

23 March

FoodDrinkEurope calls on Brussels to relieve Covid-19 supply chain pressure

Trade body FoodDrinkEurope is asking the European Commission to intervene to relieve supply chain pressure during the coronavirus epidemic.

The body, which represents food and beverage companies operating in Europe, said it has identified five pressure points putting a particular strain on the food supply chain.

FoodDrinkEurope director general Mella Frewen said: "If we act on these five areas now, we believe we can avoid serious disruptions to food and drink supplies to consumers and safeguard our jobs and businesses."

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The UK's competition regulator has announced plans to set up a Covid-19 "taskforce" to monitor the market and clamp down on firms "exploiting these exceptional circumstances".

"The outbreak of Covid-19 is an unprecedented and rapidly evolving challenge that has prompted many concerns that businesses might exploit the situation to take advantage of people, for example by charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about their products," the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said.

"The Covid-19 virus, and the measures taken to suppress its impact on public health, are likely to have a substantial impact on competition, with the risk of an increase in consumer detriment."

On Friday, the CMA issued an open letter to the food, drink and pharma industries, revealing it had "received reports that a minority of firms in your sector are seeking to capitalise on the current situation by charging unjustifiably high prices for
essential goods or making misleading claims around their efficacy".

The CMA said: "We are sure that you share our concerns not just about the unacceptability of such practices in the current circumstances, but also the risk of undermining public trust more widely across these sectors. If appropriate, the CMA has recourse to a range of competition and consumer powers to tackle bad behaviour. It is therefore vital that any poor behaviour is nipped in the bud now and we will use all of the powers available to us to ensure that markets continue to work well during the coronavirus outbreak."

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The Consumer Goods Forum, a network of 400 of the world's biggest consumer goods companies including Nestle, Danone and Kellogg, has cancelled its annual summit.

The four-day event was due to take place from 16 to 19 June in London.

"It is not a decision we have taken lightly but, given the pandemic that is impacting our industry and the people we care most about, we felt it is the right thing to do," The Consumer Goods Forum said in a statement.

"We would like to take this opportunity to stress that this is not going to stop us bringing members together. The Global Summit may well be the flagship event for our industry, bringing together over 1,000 CEOs and c-suite executives, but we firmly believe that the need for collaboration and knowledge sharing has never been higher. We will, therefore, look at how we continue to bring members together virtually and help ensure momentum around our key strategic initiatives, as well as on mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on our supply chains and stores."

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PepsiCo to hire more workers, offers compensatory pay benefits

PepsiCo plans to take on 6,000 new workers over the "coming months" to meet the extra retail demand from the Covid-19 outbreak as the food and beverages giant announced compensation packages for its US-based employees. 

The packages will apply to more than 90,000 "frontline" staff at its beverages and food divisions across North America and "consists of a minimum of an incremental US$100 per week for full-time employees over the next month". The additional full-time workers will be offered full company benefits, PepsiCo said in a statement.

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US foodservice supplier Sysco turns focus onto retail

Sysco, the US foodservice distribution giant, has turned its attention to the retail grocery market as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

As so many foodservice outlets have been forced to close as a result of the outbreak, Sysco has been forced to look again at its business model.

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Candy giant Cloetta withdraws dividend amid Covid-19 pressure

Cloetta, the European confectionery supplier, has pulled plans to issue a dividend to shareholders, warning the risk of a "negative financial impact" on the business "from the end of March has increased significantly".

The company added: "Given the current uncertainty due to the global outbreak of Covid-19 and potential governmental response, it is not at this point possible to predict the full potential impact on our business. However, with the rapid spread of the coronavirus now heavily impacting markets where Cloetta has a presence and the currencies the group is exposed to, we believe that the risk of adverse effects has increased significantly."

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Meanwhile, food major 2 Sisters Food Group has announced it has job vacancies across its processing sites in the country.

In a series of tweets issued on Friday (20 March) and this morning, 2 Sisters said it had either temporary or permanent (or both) openings at eight plants.


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Ireland's farmers have described the decision by McDonald's to close its outlets in the country and in the UK as a "big blow" to the Irish beef sector.

"McDonald's is an important buyer of Irish beef. Their closure is a big blow to the sector," a statement from The Irish Farmers' Association read.

"Unfortunately, it is reflective of what is happening across Europe where closures have had an impact on the food service sector. However, some of this has been mitigated by an increase in retail demand."

A number of major retail and foodservice names have, in the last couple of days, announced plans to temporarily close, including UK coffee-shop chain Costa.

Paul Pomroy, the CEO of the McDonald's business in the UK and Ireland, said yesterday: "Over the last 24 hours, it has become clear that maintaining safe social distancing whilst operating busy takeaway and Drive Thru restaurants is increasingly difficult and therefore we have taken the decision to close every restaurant in the UK and Ireland by 7pm on Monday 23rd March.

"We have not taken this decision lightly and know that our restaurants have been playing an important role in the community providing hundreds of thousands of free drinks to frontline health and social workers and emergency services personnel.

"But I have been clear throughout this that we would only continue to operate whilst it was safe for our people and together with our franchisees, we feel now is the time to make this decision to temporarily close."

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Dairy giant Fonterra is among a growing number of food and beverage companies using their production for the manufacture of hand sanitisers.

The New Zealand dairy giant said it is increasing its production capacity for making ethanol.

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J&J Snack Foods issues new warning on sales

J&J Snack Foods has warned the impact on its sales from coronavirus could be twice as severe as earlier estimated as more and more foodservice outlets in the US close temporarily to curb its spread.

Nasdaq-listed J&J Snack Foods is now warning two-thirds of its sales to restaurants, schools, stadiums and arenas, movie theatres and amusement parks could be affected based on annual revenues of $1.2bn, compared to a previous estimate of one third, as more venues close their doors.

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Comvita postpones capital raise but points to Covid-19 sales boost

New Zealand-based Manuka honey maker Comvita has put capital raising plans on the back burner as demand for its products has noticeably increased in recent weeks.
The company suggested products "considered to support general immunity" are in greater demand because of the coronavirus outbreak.

20 March

US plant-based supplier Califia Farms sees boost from Covid-19

In an interview with just-food, Greg Steltenpohl, the CEO of US dairy-alternatives business Califia Farms, set out the impact the outbreak is having on the company.

"The mechanics of the business demand for the particular category we're in is really unprecedented," Steltenpohl said, reflecting on the US market for plant-based milks. "We have never seen logistically anything like this before in terms of the need to ramp up production. Our largest distributor asked for four times the usual orders this last week for our top-selling plant-milk SKUs."

And Steltenpohl believes Califia Farms - which secured US$225m in investor funding in January - and the wider plant-based market could see longer-term gains from the crisis.

"Once things normalise here, our product will probably be even more in demand. I mean, as people have pondered the origin and vectors of not just Covid-19, but the whole series of these types of viruses, they're coming to understand the animal-base vectors or origin points, so it's given people a lot more awareness of their own personal health," he claimed.

You can read the full interview with Steltenpohl here.

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Kellogg ramping up cereal production in the UK

US cereal giant Kellogg is the latest food major to announce a recruitment drive in the UK in an attempt to keep up with increased demand linked to the Covid-19 epidemic. 

UK food start-ups network and consultancy Young Foodies has criticised a decision by some supermarkets to de-list the products of small brands to concentrate on core product offerings during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Theadora Alexander, co-founder of the organisation, which represents more than a thousand food and drink SMEs, said: "Principally, we understand the move and we are not expecting business as usual by any stretch, but if Morrisons is going to be taking small suppliers off the shelf and putting them at such severe business risk, it should be up to the retailer to provide them with the income continuity. They will be making their sales elsewhere so they will be able to. We cannot have a black and white case of winners and losers.

"We believe that that is the responsibility of the retailer, as per GSCOP [Groceries Supply Code of Practice], to offset any losses as a variation from trade. It's then up to the retailer to decide whether they need additional support from the government on this matter.

"For now though, there has to be a near-term plug gap on the brands' side to protect them."

just-food archive: Young Foodies interview - the challenges facing challenger brands

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UK chilled pastry product firm Addo Food Group has announced a recruitment drive. It is seeking temporary employees across its six sites to meet increase demand as a result of Covid-19.

The company, behind the Wall's and Pork Farms brands, is offering roles to people with all levels of experience within its Spalding, Nottingham, Market Drayton, Shaftesbury and Poole factories. 

CEO Deborah Bolton said: "Coronavirus has impacted so many businesses within the hospitality industry already and as workers are being laid off all over the country from restaurants, pubs and bars, we're pleased to be able to offer temporary positions within our six sites, which may help ease the financial pressure that a lot of people now find themselves in. It's a really difficult time for people and it's important that we help where we can."

The company manufactures savoury quiches, pies, pasties, slices, scotch eggs, sausage rolls and pork pies.

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UK grocer competition rules relaxed

The UK government is temporarily relaxing competition regulations to allow the country's major grocers to work more closely during the Covid-19 outbreak.

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UK meat business Moy Park seeking hundreds of new workers to help it meet demand

Moy Park, the UK meat processor owned by US poultry giant Pilgrim's Pride, is seeking "hundreds" of temporary workers to help it meet additional demand resulting from the coronavirus outbreak.

German meal-kit firm HelloFresh is said to be taking on up to 400 temporary staff at its UK distribution centre in Oxfordshire to meet increased demand as a result of coronavirus.

Local newspaper reports said the company, which delivers fresh, pre-portioned ingredients for customers to cook from scratch at home, is experiencing strong growth in its business.

19 March

Covid-19 could have profound implications for UK food system - Shore Capital

One of the UK's well-known food industry analysts has said the Covid-19 outbreak could have a profound impact on the country's food system as demand shifts from foodservice to grocery retail.

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UK industry body warns of meat supply issues

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has warned that increased demand for meat as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to supply issues.

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US regulator the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it plans to focus on the safety of regulated products during the current crisis and is postponing its routine inspection of manufacturing facilities.

"Now more than ever, the American people are depending on us. We must ensure our workforce remains healthy to carry out the FDA's critical public health mission to keep Americans safe," it said.

"In keeping with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and cross-government guidance, this week we directed all eligible FDA employees to begin teleworking. While this does not apply to those carrying out non-portable activities, such as certain lab activities or the monitoring of imported products, we will continue to adjust our approach to a number of activities, including facility inspections for all FDA-regulated products such as food, animal feed, drugs, biological products, devices and tobacco.

"Earlier this month, we announced that we are postponing most foreign facility inspections through April and that inspections outside the US deemed mission-critical will be considered on a case-by-case basis as this outbreak continues to unfold.

"Today, we're announcing that for the health and well-being of our staff and those who conduct inspections for the agency under contract at the state level, and because of industry concerns about visitors, we have temporarily postponed all domestic routine surveillance facility inspections."

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UK fresh food supplier Bidfresh is adding direct-to-consumer home delivery services from its depots around the country in response to the national measures introduced to address the coronavirus outbreak.

The public will be able to order meat, fish and seafood, fruit and veg, dairy and a range of other products. The free delivery service will operate in selected postcodes around the depots and will run alongside Bidfresh's established business with chef and caterers.

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Bleak outlook for Chinese dairy imports

China's dairy imports are likely to decrease at a double-digit rate this year primarily due to a drop off in demand as a result of Covid-19, according to Rabobank, which predicts the virus and falling oil prices will trigger a global recession.

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European food and agri-food bodies FoodDrinkEurope, Copa-Cogeca and Celcaa have issued a joint statement saying that food supplies are facing some disruption at the border.

The organisations said their members are reporting increasing difficulties in their business operations.

"Delays and disruption at country borders have been observed for the delivery of certain agricultural and manufactured products, as well as packaging materials. There is also concern over the movement of workers, notably due to certain border closures and travel restrictions, as well as potential labour shortages as staff follow national movement restrictions to mitigate the crisis," the statement said.

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Synlait experiencing Covid-19 supply chain issues

Synlait, the New Zealand-based dairy and infant-formula manufacturer, said it is experiencing "pressure on the broader supply chain" as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Finland's Fazer announces temporary lay-offs

Finland-based food manufacturer Fazer has started negotiations with some staff over temporary lay-offs as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Fellow Finnish food group Raisio has cancelled its annual general meeting that was due to take place on 24 March, "based on the announcement by the Finnish government on the coronavirus situation", A new date for the AGM has not yet been set.

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UK online grocer Ocado has suspended its online food delivery service, blaming higher demand than it can meet.

Ocado said that while existing customers with orders would still receive them, it was experiencing a "simply staggering amount of traffic" to its website and more demand for products and deliveries than it could deal with.

18 March

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis said we find ourselves in "uncharted waters".

In a statement, the UK's largest supermarket's boss said: "Covid-19 is bringing a change to the UK and it's clear that lots of things are going to have to shift around in order to help us cope.

"At Tesco, we have been doing everything we can to keep business as usual, but we now have to accept it is not business as usual. In the last two weeks, we have seen significant and prolonged increases in demand across all of our stores and this is leading to shortages in some products for some customers.

"Reacting to the latest government announcements, we have to plan on this situation being the new normal and we will do all that we can to make the food you want available, but we need your help."

He outlined changes including a store-wide restriction of only three items per customer on every product line, night time closures to allow for re-stocking, elderly and vulnerable only shopping slots and removing multi-buy promotions.

All meat, fish, deli counters and salad bars are to be closed to allow staff to be moved into other parts of the retail operation.

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General Mills' ice cream sales in Asia hit by Covid-19

General Mills said its Asian sales for the third quarter were impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak after the US food major hinted last month that revenues from its Häagen-Dazs ice-cream shops in China would be disrupted.

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Analyst Sanford Bernstein is "tactically upgrading" a number of US food firms because of coronavirus-related sales.

Conagra Foods, Campbell Soup Co., General Mills, Kraft Heinz and JM Smucker have been moved from underperform to market-perform by the firm which is expecting a coronavirus-related sales lift and broader economic uncertainties to support stock valuations in the near term.

"On near-term coronavirus implications, based on the latest weekly Nielsen data (week ending 7 March), canned soup, pasta, peanut butter, RTE cereal, and granola bars are among the categories that experienced the most significant incremental sales growth (~10-20%) due to coronavirus-related pantry loading," it said.

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Science in Sport sees revenues slide in Italy as a result of epidemic

Science in Sport, the UK-based nutrition products manufacturer, said it has experienced a sharp reduction in revenues in Italy as a result of the coronavirus contagion, which has prompted that government to put the country into lockdown.

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Hormel Foods outlines action taken to combat Covid-19

US-based Hormel Foods has reported that it has taken "prudent action" to protect its business from the spread of coronavirus.

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Greencore says too early to judge impact of Covid-19 on its results

Ireland-based private-label food manufacturer Greencore has said its supply chain and production network remains "fully operational" despite the coronavirus outbreak but the impact on its results remains uncertain.

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Bubs Australia boosts capacity to meet increased demand

Bubs Australia said it has boosted production capacity and increased shift rotas to meet a rise in demand for infant formula as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and is also building inventories to cater to any further "surges" in orders.

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UK supermarkets have announced further measures to help deal with the coronavirus threat and to prevent customer stockpiling.

Tesco, the country's largest grocer, is to close its 24-hour stores overnight to allow for re-stocking while Sainsbury's is the latest retailer to put a limit on the number of purchases of certain items. Morrisons has said it will take on an extra 3,500 staff to increase its home delivery capability and reiterated its intention to pay small suppliers immediately. A number of retailers have introduced special shopping hours for the elderly to ensure they can get the groceries they need.

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17 March

Sanderson Farms introduces strict guidelines for employees

US chicken giant Sanderson Farms has taken robust measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. They include prohibiting employees and members of their households from travelling for personal reasons outside the US.

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Supermarkets in the UK, including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, and Aldi have put rationing restrictions on certain items sold in store over the growing pandemic of coronavirus.

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European fruit, veg association working to ensure supplies

Freshfel Europe, the Brussels-based association representing fresh fruit and vegetables producers, said it is working with its members to ensure supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen some countries close restaurants and other outlets to curb its spread.

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Organic food business Midsona sees a surge in sales

Midsona has increased production as the Sweden-based organic food business has seen increased demand due to coronavirus, with sales of some items up 40% in the first two weeks of March.

16 March

Food business entrepreneur John Stapleton, who built up and sold brands New Covent Garden Soup Co. and Little Dish, outlines a number of steps SMEs can take to help them survive coronavirus.

Coronavirus and food industry SMEs - a survival plan

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Impossible Foods targets coronavirus fight after raising multi-millions in funding round

Impossible Foods, the US business which makes plant-based burgers and faux pork products, has raised around US$500m in a new fundraising round. It said the funding will help it to fight off the threat of coronavirus.

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Murray River Organics sees delays in shipping, orders

Murray River Organics, the Australia-based dried fruit snacks producer, said it has "experienced delays to shipping and orders" in February and March as a result of the coronavirus outbreak but is unable to put a financial estimate on the impact.

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Food industry employees asked to work from home as crisis worsens

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.

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British Meat Processors Association Rethink conference postponed

The British Meat Processors Association has postponed a conference due to be held in London tomorrow (17 March) because of "public health and safety issues" related to the coronavirus outbreak.

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13 March

J&J Snack Foods warns of potential impact on sales

J&J Snack Foods, the US food business serving retail and foodservice channels, has warned its sales could be impacted by coronavirus as fewer consumers eat out.

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Tesco seeks to reassure customers on food supply pipeline

Tesco, the UK's largest grocer, has sought to reassure consumers that its food supply pipeline is robust despite reports of coronavirus-linked panic-buying.

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Brazilian meat processor BRF operating normally but protocols in place

Brazilian meat processor BRF said its factories are operating normally but has put protocols in place to tackle any eventualities emerging from the coronavirus outbreak, which has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

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Italian food producers working flat out to ensure retail supplies but longer-term risks remain

Supermarkets in Italy will stay open through the coronavirus crisis, with a government official saying the country's food manufacturers are working flat out to ensure supplies.

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12 March

Premium Brands Holdings seeing impact on seafood sales to China

Premium Brands Holdings, the acquisitive Canadian food firm with businesses stretching across cured meats, meat snacks and seafood, said it is starting to see the impact of coronavirus on sales.

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11 March

Global Berry Congress postponed as coronavirus spreads in Europe

The Global Berry Congress, which brings together fruit producers from around the world, has been postponed due to the spread of coronavirus in Europe.

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Seafood Expo Global and Seafood Processing Global shows postponed

Seafood Expo Global and Seafood Processing Global has become the latest victim of the coronavirus outbreak as organisers cancelled the event due to be held in Brussels next month.

10 March

UK government "confident" on food supplies

The UK government has said it is confident that the UK's food supply will not be interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.

9 March

Bell Food Group cancels AGM because of coronavirus

Switzerland's Bell Food Group has postponed its 2020 annual general meeting as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The meeting was scheduled for 17 March but has now been put back to 12 May.

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Tesco starts rationing some product as panic-buying sets in

Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket, has started rationing of certain products, including some foodstuffs, to deter consumers fearing coronavirus-linked shortages from stockpiling goods.

6 March

Coronavirus sees FrieslandCampina trim growth forecast

The coronavirus outbreak has led Netherlands-based dairy major FrieslandCampina to reassess how much it sees its core sales growing in 2020.

5 March

Campbell ups soup production in anticipation of stockpiling

US food giant Campbell Soup Co. has said it is increasing the production of its soup products in anticipation of coronavirus-linked stockpiling.

4 March

Seafood Expo North America latest trade show to fall foul of Covid-19

Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America is the second major US trade show in as many days to be cancelled because of the outbreak of coronavirus.

3 March

US food share prices 'could benefit from coronavirus'

An analyst covering the food industry has suggested that the coronavirus outbreak could turn out to be a net positive for the sector's stocks.

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US trade show Expo West cancelled because of coronavirus

Expo West, the US new products show, has been cancelled at the last minute as a precautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus disease.

28 February

High Liner Foods reviewing China supply route

Canada-based seafood firm High Liner Foods has said it has taken action to reduce its reliance on Chinese supplies in light of the coronavirus which originated in the country.

27 February

Nestle asks staff not to embark on overseas travel

Switzerland-based food giant Nestlé has asked staff not to embark on international business travel due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has affected almost 50 countries.

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Bakkavor feels 'significant impact' from coronavirus in international business

Bakkavor said the coronavirus outbreak in China is having a "significant impact" on the private-label firm's international business after reporting a "weak" performance in its domestic UK market, which generates the majority of revenues.

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Fonterra maintains earnings forecast but coronavirus still a threat

New Zealand's Fonterra said it could feel the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China on its foodservice division, but for the time being, the world's largest dairy cooperative is maintaining its full-year earnings guidance.

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Danone reveals sales impact forecast

Danone has outlined how coronavirus might affect the French food and beverage giant's sales performance in the first quarter.

26 February

Italy's farmers' union warns of disruption

Italy's food sector is at risk of major disruption from the outbreak of coronavirus in the north of the country, national farmers' association Coldiretti has warned.

24 February

Italy food trade body warns of business impact

Italy's food industry is monitoring the coronavirus cases in the country and the reaction to the outbreak with "great apprehension", trade association Federalimentare said today (24 February), warning of the possible impact on the economy and to food exports.

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Mexico's Grupo Bimbo closes plant in China

The coronavirus outbreak in China has forced Mexico-based bakery behemoth Grupo Bimbo to temporarily close a plant in the city of Wuhan, where the disease emerged late last year.

21 February

Chile's salmon exports to China begin to pick up after coronavirus suspension

Salmon farmers in Chile are starting to kick-start exports to China again after suspending shipments amid a drop in demand linked to the coronavirus outbreak.

19 February

General Mills' Haagen-Dazs operation in China hit by virus

US food major General Mills risks seeing its sales decline in Greater China after reporting almost half of its Häagen-Dazs ice-cream shops have been temporarily closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

18 February

Kerry Group guidance factors in potential impact of Covid-19

Kerry Group has issued guidance for its new financial year that factors in a potentially significant decline in earnings from the coronavirus outbreak in China.

10 February

China could look to overhaul meat industry in wake of outbreaks

A report from a US investment bank has suggested that China may look to restructure its meat industry following the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF), avian flu and the more recent coronavirus.

5 February

Nestle bans travel to and from China

Nestlé, the world's largest food maker, has issued an update on how it has so far reacted to the coronavirus outbreak in China.

Coronavirus impact on China consumption 'to last months'

The coronavirus outbreak in China will hit sales and profits in food-related industries such as retail and entertainment for "several months", a wide-ranging report from Moody's has warned.

3 February

Jatenergy ups production of lactoferrin to meet coronavirus-linked demand

Australia's Jatenergy is raising production of lactoferrin-based dairy products to meet increased demand from China, which the company believes is linked to the coronavirus outbreak.

30 January

Coronavirus - two Mondelez China plants closed

Mondelez International has been asked by Beijing to keep two of its plants shut beyond the usual period of closures over Chinese New Year due to the coronavirus outbreak.