(Note: this story first appeared in our sister publication, Food Engineering).

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has food and beverage processors scrambling to ensure their employees are safe, their operations are uninterrupted and their supply chains are intact.

To understand how companies are managing concerns about potential supply chain disruptions, I provided the following questions to Golden State Foods, which supplies more than 120,000 quick service restaurants worldwide. GSF is an industry leader in its focus on protecting and securing its supply chain.

Dr. Wayne Morgan, Corporate Vice President and President, Protein Products and Sustainability for Golden State Foods, provided the answers. Dr. Morgan is responsible for all of GSF’s meat-related business activities, companywide sustainability initiatives, quality systems, and corporate support for environment, health and safety.

Food Engineering: What steps are you taking to protect your supply chain from potential disruptions due to the coronavirus?

Dr. Wayne Morgan: Our first priority is looking after our associates. Golden State Foods formed a Crisis Management Team specifically for COVID-19, and this team is fully engaged and proactively communicating to associates throughout our company and around the world. We are following all CDC guidelines and taking all of the proper measures with regard to the safety, health and quality of our people, our products and our facilities.

Regarding our supply chain, we have robust business continuity plans and contingency plans. We are working upstream with our suppliers and downstream with our customers to ensure we support their needs however they need us.

FE: What have you heard from suppliers about the steps they are taking?

WM: We’re in communication with many of our partners across the supply chain about best practices, and we’re aligned on following CDC guidelines and taking cues from government agencies.

FE: One side effect of the coronavirus has been increased demand from consumers. How is that affecting your logistics and planning?

WM: Increased demand is occurring in some sectors, but not across all. In many sectors, such as entertainment, restaurants, and travel, there have been varying degrees of decreased demand, and we expect even more in the immediate future. Even so, we’re generally optimistic about long-term recovery from decreases in demand in those sectors that experience it.

As product demands change, we’re evaluating daily and forecasting our needs for supplies and raw materials. As consumers are encouraged to use take-away and drive-through options offered by restaurants, we’re focused on supporting the needs of our QSR customers.

FE: What do you see as the biggest challenges moving forward? How are you preparing for them?

WM: Uncertainty is our biggest challenge. We’re experiencing uncertainty around staffing, uncertainty around sales, uncertainty around raw materials and supplies, and uncertainty around how long this will last. We are being as proactive as possible to take care of our associates by following CDC guidelines and doing everything we can to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. We are having regular conversations with many of our customers, some on a daily basis, to make sure we have the most current information on sales forecast.  We are staying aligned with our raw material and supply providers to be aware of any headwinds. 

Finally, we are optimistic that our government leaders are doing the things that need to be done to mitigate this issue as much as possible. This is obviously a tough situation, but we believe in our company, we believe in the U.S. food supply, and we believe in this country and will continue to work to do the best we can today and into the future.

Another challenge is what we are seeing in our communities in terms of children and families in need. At the heart of Golden State Foods, we have our associate-led, associate-funded GSF Foundation that has already taken action to help children and families in need during this challenging time. Our Foundation leaders are currently fast-tracking food bank grants and offering matching funds for our facilities’ local Foundation committees to support neighbors in need in the communities where GSF associates work and live.

Click here for more COVID-19 coverage and how it is affecting the refrigerated and frozen foods industry.