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F&B industry challenges during Covid-19 - manufacture to market access
Tuesday, 12 January, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
The food and beverage industry in the country encountered a slew of challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic and the global lockdowns that impacted movement of goods and services. From risks of supply, financial access, logistics, infrastructure, to management of operations and environmental concerns in the early days of the lockdown wreaked manufacture, access to market and manpower.

Covid-19 disrupted and dismantled supply chains. It led to stringent measures such as the imposition of trade barriers and export restrictions that have affected the global trade and negatively impacted the markets. The pandemic crisis has sharply depreciated the exchange rates, commodity and energy prices of the developing economies. With the rising costs of capital, the impacts are felt in the capital-intensive food and beverage operations.

Abhishek Bhasin and Utkarsh Bansal, co-founders, Country Kitchen, said, “As a consequence of Covid-19 crisis, the food manufacturing and supply chain had been majorly disrupted due to uncertainty over resumption in the market. As a start-up, we were also facing challenges with cost increment for the sanitisation process and procurement of raw material from farmers. However, on the other hand, we saw a major shift in consumer behaviour in adapting local products and being more mindful of what they are buying and consuming. We are certain that these consuming habits would cause lasting structural changes to the overall food industry and will eventually benefit home-grown and local labels.”

Zonu Reddy, partner, Spago Foods, Magnolia Bakery India, said, “The food and beverage industry took a major hit in the initial months when everyone was figuring how to cope with the pandemic. We worked in shifts to follow the social distancing norms. We also saw a major shift in supply and demand and adapted our production based on that, we also bake in small batches to ensure fresh products for our customers and are able to judge the quantities required by having the kitchen located inside the bakery.”

“During the lockdown we saw 40 per cent drop in sales but since the first unlock we have seen a steady increase in sales and were pleasantly surprised to see customers line up at the door when we reopened the store for takeaway and delivery orders. We have been seeing a steady increase in consumers not just ordering in but eating out as well and decide to tap into different audiences in other parts of the city. The opening of our second outlet at RMZ Ecoworld Bellandur in Bangalore enables us to tap into a new micro market. We are now looking to further expand our footprint not just in Bangalore but also in other cities across the country,” added Reddy.

Those from the coffee retail beg to differ. Shriram S, vice president, Levista Coffee, noted, “We went against the tide during the last 9 months and the results are noteworthy. We have a renewed confidence on the business now with a healthy double digit growth rate in our topline. We increased our full-time employees by 50 per cent during the FY 20-21 till date as well as added over 150 sales promoters who are present at these retail stores to promote the brand build engagement. We increased our retail presence from 26,000 in Feb 2020 to 42,000 by December 2020. The future looks bright and interesting indeed.”

For Britannia and iDFresh, it was a phase of innovation.The  biscuit major diligently studied the impact of Covid-19, made changes in consumer preferences and distribution models. For the fresh food brand iD, under a 21-day lockdown to combat the Covid-19 pandemic saw people hoarding and panic buying with the fear of products going off the shelf, here iD Fresh Food, addressed the issue ensuring that people stay home went on to  launch a unique ‘Store Finder’ feature on its website.

According to Varun Berry, MD, Britannia Industries, the Q1 posed an uphill task for the economy in wake of Covid-19 and caused significant disruptions due to lockdowns imposed to curtail its spread. Factories, depots, transport and vendors across the supply chain were impacted.
“Our top priority was to ensure safety of our employees and the eco-system we work with for which we laid out clear and stringent standard operating procedures and implemented them meticulously. We thank the sincere efforts put in by the employees, business partners, vendors, customers and the healthcare workers to sail through these times,” he added.

“The challenging scenario brought the best out of the team and we implemented some innovative ways of working in sales, supply chain and other support functions. Our nimble culture helped us quickly adapt to the situation and meet the market demand. As soon as the lockdown was eased, we focussed on getting our distribution back to the pre-Covid levels and increasing our rural and hinterland reach.” Berry said.

ITC Foods too introduced Sunfeast cakes and its B Natural ready-to-serve fruit beverages launched a digital campaign ‘Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan’ to salute the unsung heroes of the nation, the Indian farmer. Through the campaign, the brand reinforced its efforts to source from Indian farmers and support them, and urges consumers to do the same by choosing produce which are sourced from Indian farmers.

The Indian farmer toils tirelessly, and brings prosperity to the entire nation. The brand has always stood for recognising the fruits of the Indian farmers’ labour and does so by being committed to sourcing Indian fruits for its juices.

Sanjay Singal, chief operating officer, dairy and beverages, ITC, said, "In a country like ours, farmers play an important role in supporting the economy and at the same time significantly contribute towards the well-being of every citizen of the nation. As a responsible brand, B Natural is in constant pursuit of contributing meaningfully towards the lives of the Indian farmers for their incessant support.”
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