Despite scenes of empty shelves and customers hoarding all the essentials, the grocery industry says they are doing everything they can to remain open, safe and stocked amid the coronavirus pandemic, emphasizing that the supply chain is still flowing.
“We know what the risks are and retailers are addressing those risks in the store,” Heather Garlich, who works with the Food Industry Association, told ABC News.
Garlich said workers are following the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including hand-washing, cleaning high-touch areas and practicing as much social distancing as possible, noting that “many stores have click-and-collect and delivery options.”
“There are risks, but the industry is mitigating them through the practices that are known,” Garlich added. “In stores, associates are cleaning regularly. Stores already have good air quality, so they are protecting their customers with simple tactics, such as cleaning high-touch areas and offering tools to customers for sanitizing their carts and baskets or doors.”
Garlich noted that she hasn’t “witnessed any reports of transmission as a result of being in a grocery store — in the U.S. or abroad — or else public health officials would have pointed that out.”
“Bottom line: Be patient with your grocer. This is a demand issue. Not a supply issue,” she said. “The government is committed to keeping stores open, employees safe and the supply chain flowing.”
Demand for many pantry staples and household goods has spiked amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the week ending March 14, toilet paper saw a 212% increase in demand in the U.S. compared with the same weeklong period last year, according to Nielsen data released Friday.
Dried beans saw a more than 230% increase in demand and rice sales spiked by 166% in that same time. Canned tuna also soared by 142%, according to the Nielsen data.
The president of the National Grocers Association, which includes more than 8,500 U.S. stores, told ABC News earlier this week, “There is absolutely no concern about running out of food.”
Greg Ferrara, the president of the NGA, added that independent grocers are helping larger chains meet demand during this time, and that grocery stores are being restocked at unprecedented speeds.
“The supply chain is fully operational, and supplies are flowing 24/7,” Ferrara said. “Unfortunately, the demand in many markets has been unprecedented, and the supply chain is working to catch up, but stores are being restocked with fresh produce, meats, breads, canned goods — you name it — on a daily basis.”
Here is the latest from major grocery store chains around the country.
A Wegmans spokesperson said they currently have no plans to close stores and are following the guidance of the CDC as well as state and local governments.
In a statement on its website, the company added that it is following strict food safety protocols and increasingly educating employees about viral protection.
Moreover, Wegmans is increasing the cleaning of each store, distribution center and office, adding additional hand-sanitizer stations, restricting use of reusable cups at the self-serve coffee bar, and increasing signage about reusable-bag cleaning instructions.
As for supply, the company said, “there are a number of pressures on the supply chain to keep up with demand” that is only exacerbated by increasingly high demand as many customers stock up on goods.
“Know that we continue to receive shipments to our stores every day,” the company said. “Although we may not have every variety available, we are working hard to give our customers options in each category.”
Target said it did not indicate any major changes to its operations or pick-up options. Moreover, the company said it offers a range of services that don’t require customers to enter the store, including same-day delivery and delivery to your car in the parking lot.
The grocer chain Publix announced similar measures.
“We care about the health and well-being of our associates and customers and take every precaution, including sharing information and adjusting policies and procedures,” a Publix spokesperson told ABC News. “As in other instances, and with COVID-19, we are following the guidance provided by the CDC and working with local and state agencies.”
The company added that it has amended store hours in order to do more cleanings. The company is also offering home delivery and curbside pickup.