The International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) and FMI-Food Industry Association are partnering to try and keep store shelves stocked amid the coronavirus pandemic. The groups announced an ad-hoc partnership today that aims to match foodservice distribution companies that have excess product, warehouse space, and transportation capacity to food retailers and wholesalers in need of assistance, the associations said.
“Our industries are both committed to the safe delivery of food to consumers and we are equipped to provide service during this critical time in our country,” IFDA President and CEO Mark Allen said in a statement announcing the program. “This partnership makes sense and it is in these times of turmoil that we must step up and fill the gaps when we can to help each other where we can.”
The partnership aims to match excess product and capacity caused by the closing of restaurants, schools, and other businesses with retailers’ and wholesalers’ needs to replenish store shelves more quickly. Food industry experts have said demand for food, water, and cleaning products has exceeded any previous holiday season in recent weeks, according to IFDA and FMI. Consumers have rushed to purchase supplies as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, creating replenishment delays at retailers nationwide.
IFDA and FMI will gather information from their members and match capacity to need geographically, essentially functioning as a clearinghouse for contact information, according to IFDA spokesperson Meghan Cieslak. She emphasized that the program aims to help fill demand for products, but also will help fill demand for trucks, drivers, warehouse staff, warehouse storage, and similar needs.
“These are unprecedented times with unprecedented needs, but if we can think in terms of partnerships and problem solving, we can get through this together,” FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said. “We are committed to replenishing supplies, but we know it will take cooperation, patience, and consistency to deliver results.”
Separately, IFDA said that it projects the food distribution industry will lose $24 billion over the next three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“... Right now, we have heard reports from distributors that business has declined up to 50 percent," Allen said in separate statement. "That’s why we need Congress to act now--and provide the foodservice distribution industry with federally backed loans as part of its relief packages so we can remain viable. These are not businesses the size and scope of the airlines, but are family-owned businesses that have sustained wars, recessions, and other challenges but who say two weeks of this is all it will take to have a significant impact on their business.”