COVID-19 Update: Industry Works to Keep Stores Well-Stocked & Meet Consumer Needs

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Providence, RI—Food wholesaler United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) announced that on Sunday it had joined with leaders from across the food and retail grocery industries to participate in a meeting convened by the White House. Steven L. Spinner, UNFI Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, represented the company and reaffirmed UNFI’s commitment to “working tirelessly to meet the needs of customers and consumers across the country,” according to a press release.

“It is important for all Americans to know that they can continue to count on companies like ours to keep stores well-stocked with a variety of food and wellness products during this critical period,” Spinner said in the release. “In addition to having business continuity and safety plans in place to help keep America fed, UNFI is supplementing its coordination with federal, state, and local government agencies by now collaborating directly with the White House and industry peers. We firmly believe that increased levels of public-private collaboration can further enhance UNFI’s around-the-clock efforts to meet our customers current and future needs.”

Spinner called America’s food supply chain “the best in the world,” pointing strong infrastructure, flexibility and resiliency. “To keep the supply chain that strong, we have asked the Administration’s help in encouraging responsible consumer purchasing, keeping essential and healthy associates at work, and ensuring highways and roads remain open to cargo trucks.”

KeHE posted a message on facebook, sharing, “In a time of uncertainty, KeHE is committed to the community of good food. As a part of the grocery supply chain, we are working together to put food in homes across America during the COVID-19 pandemic.” KeHE also shaed a video from FMI President & CEO Leslie Sarasin discussing how the supply chain will adjust to the national emergency. The video is available here.

Related: NPA on COVID-19: Natural Products Retailers are Essential Businesses and Must Remain Open

On the retail front, grocers have been reporting on their safety protocals, shifting hours to better serve their communities, offering curbside pickup, and hiring to ensure that consumer needs are met. A small sampling of those efforts:

Natural Grocers announced company-wide hiring activity for temporary stocking and cleaning positions at all of its 157 stores across 20 states. “These new positions will work alongside the Natural Grocers good4u Crew in keeping shelves stocked with household essentials, supplements and healthy foods, and regularly cleaning the most frequently touched surfaces in the stores, including check-out lanes, payment terminals, conveyor belts and cleaning shelves when restocking,” the company explained in a press release. People intested in applying for the temporary positions can visit www.naturalgrocers.com/temp-work or Text “GROW” to 97211 to talk with a recruiter. Natural Grocers also issued updates on store operating hours, employee resources and more; information is available here.

Whole Foods Market also announced that it was shifting hours. An update on the wesbite notes, “Whole Foods Market recognizes the important role we play in our communities, especially during this challenging time. As we prioritize the health and safety of our customers, Team Members and partners, we remain committed to ensuring that all customers have access to the items they need, taking action to support our Team Members and doing our part to help contain the spread of COVID-19.”

Effective March 18, the company said, all Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. and Canada will serve customers who are 60 and older one hour before opening to the general public–the new adjusted hours are posted on the store’s web page. The annoucment explains, “We are setting aside this time to help these customers, who national health authorities have identified as among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, feel more comfortable shopping our stores and helping to ensure they are able to get the items they need in a less crowded environment.”

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Whole Foods Market said stores will close up to two hours early to give team members time to restock shelves, sanitize stores and rest, and added, “During this time, stores will remain open for pickup (in stores that offer it), and we will continue to fulfill Prime delivery orders in an effort to meet unprecedented demand and ensure that people who need to remain at home can still get their groceries in a timely manner.”

Whole Foods Market also shared its belief that “serving customers and the community during this time is essential,” and that the grocer was joining Amazon in providing hourly employees with an additional $2 per hour through the end of April.

Natural Products Retailers: If you have news to share, email us at editor@wfcinc.com so we can help you spread the word.

 

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