Riding the Pandemic Wave

Oct. 29, 2020

How long will it last?

I would not like to be involved in planning at a major food processing company right now, especially one with a portfolio of established, iconic brands.

Because if I were, my professional life would revolve around one simple, unanswerable question: How long is the pandemic going to last?

As quarterly reports come in for one company after another in the Food Processing Top 100, it becomes clear that they pandemic is responsible, to varying degrees, for whatever good fortune they’re enjoying now. And most of their CEOs are issuing statements to the effect that they’re riding the momentum and planning how to sustain it when the pandemic recedes.

That’s a little like riding a wave that’s going to deposit you on top of a jagged coral reef as soon as it ebbs. (Apologies if that’s an inaccurate simile; surfing isn’t my thing.)

Will the forces that led consumers away from center-store products take hold once things are back to normal? Or will they discover that they like making meals at home, or at least they like how it lowers their food bill?

Top execs at these companies earn a lot of money making tough decisions like that. But at least there’s the grim satisfaction of knowing that they have time to make them. The second wave of the pandemic is coming. If you think it’s not going to be a bad one, look at what Germany is doing to cope with it, which is impose another lockdown, and then look what our federal government is doing, which is nothing.

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