As the second wave of COVID-19 unfolds and the holiday season knocks on the doors of Canadians, consumers are quite likely to consider stockpiling necessary food items as they did when the pandemic began. The question is, will stockpiling be necessary? Or, has the Canadian grocery industry learned lessons from spring’s pandemic experience to successfully mitigate food shortages at retail during this second wave?
One of the consumer pivots that benefited the Canadian grocery industry was the rise in online grocery orders, fueled by a quick maturation of online grocery technology. Eight months ago, it was nearly impossible to get a grocery order within eight days; now, most markets offer home delivery within two hours and online food sales are predicted to triple from 2019 numbers. Ordering grocery items online rose from one-and-half to nine per cent at the beginning of the pandemic and will likely maintain momentum as Canadians once again deal with the second wave, along with seasonal flu in the midst of the holiday season.
Lastly, while some shortages are predicted, it is mostly discretionary items such as home appliances (including parts and service for the same) that are experiencing significant supply chain challenges – not food. Major Canadian food manufacturers like Kraft Heinz have taken steps to ensure top-selling items will remain in stock. For Instance, Anna Petrova, vice president of supply chain at Kraft Heinz Canada, said they have made tweaks to its range of product offerings to maximize production of the most popular products to avoid shortages. This includes prioritizing the production of original Kraft Dinner and limiting the Organic and White Cheddar varieties. Petrova, like other food manufactures, assures consumers that they “have been working very hard to create additional capacity to produce more products to satisfy Canadians."
The Canadian grocery industry has adapted to COVID-19 with the introduction of new technologies and just-in-time procurement to manage potential shortages. Overall, many, but not all, experts in the industry doubt that a reoccurrence of spring’s panicked buying frenzy that highlighted Canada’s very fragile supply chain could (again) materialize. Ultimately, Canadians are continually being advised that they should be confident in the food supply chain and in grocery retailers to continue providing their favourites – and essential items – through a second wave and the holiday season ahead.