Anyone who really knows me knows I struggle with patience. I was the kid raising my hand repeatedly ready to shout out an answer if the teacher did not please call on me right now. And the high school senior who started wearing Ohio Wesleyan sweatshirts long before I moved into Bashford Hall. And the adult too often focused on what’s next versus what’s in front of me.
So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that COVID-19 restrictions have felt especially confining. I miss shopping without much thought to masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing. The amount of gear necessary to get out the door, in addition to my brimming purse filled with lipsticks, hand lotion, cell phone, etc. slows my departure and mentally bogs me down.
Of course, my impatience is nothing compared to what our members have experienced since last March. The non-alcoholic beverage industry has faced supply chain disruption on an unprecedented scale. As beverage demand in the grocery channel swelled, essential items like aluminum can supplies were depleted forcing members to source cans as far as Dubai.
These disruptions forced difficult decisions about what beverages to bottle given the scarcity of cans. In turn, consumers have no doubt felt impatient when favorite flavors and products are in short supply or temporarily not offered.
Additionally, bottlers expanded safety protocols for their employees working in production and distribution facilities as well as “in the trade” at retail locations. This meant investing in PPE, new wash stations at facilities, staggered shifts, reconfigured break rooms and more. The massive investments were not in anyone’s 2020 budget but quickly moved to top priority to protect employees.
Impatient or not, company leaders have found innovative ways to keep grocery shelves stocked, restaurants and other on premise venues supplied with a steady if not slightly smaller array of beverages. But that is short term thinking and they live in long term planning.
Our member companies have fast tracked “future” strategies like e-commerce. The industry is not waiting patiently for things to return to “normal”. Instead, leaders dive into supply chain diversification, revisit accepted norms like “just in time” inventory and answer consumers’ call for protective foods and beverages to boost immunity and deliver other functional benefits.
The preparation for recovery in whatever form that takes is essential. While internal big think continues for our members, they are also preparing their workforce for COVID-19 vaccination. While we wait for more details on Ohio’s rollout to essential industries in the food and beverage sectors, we recognize the excellent work of groups like the Ohio Coalition to Stop the Spread.
Their turnkey communications for employers like our members provide balanced information about staying the course with proper hygiene protocols, masks and social distancing, The Coalition also recently posted an FAQ on the vaccine for employers to use in communicating with their employees.
So, when I get impatient about the many unanswered questions surrounding the pandemic and its economic reckoning, I try to focus on what I can influence. On a much larger scale, that is what Ohio’s non-alcoholic beverage industry continues to do as we all prepare the way to equilibrium and beyond.