Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI – The Food Industry Association, today commented on the industry’s efforts to prepare for and support grocery shoppers for what health officials predict as another surge in COVID-19 cases over the next few months. Sarasin applauded the industry’s efforts to boost consumer confidence in the supply chain, saying:

“The partnerships the food industry has observed, from all the corners of America, have been and continue to be nothing short of outstanding – notwithstanding the unique challenges presented during this time, to take care of our associates, customers and communities.

“You’ll recall that at the height of the pandemic, Americans were stocking up without abatement. What we witnessed in U.S. grocery stores was not a result of insufficient food supply – it was due to demand. Today, based on the public statements across the food marketplace, grocers and their suppliers are sending a clear and empathetic message to their customers that they are on the shoppers’ side. The announcements among major retailers signal a move from “just in time” to “just in case” inventory to prevent the out-of-stock situations we witnessed earlier this year.

“Certainly this is no average year for business planning in the grocery industry. We appreciate that the meaning of normal these days seems to be like a goal post that keeps moving down the field, and we’re often asked what needs to happen for our supply chain to stabilize and regain some sense of familiarity in terms of operations – but the answer isn’t that simple. The return to pre-pandemic demand levels will be primarily determined by consumer confidence.

“Grocers are sensitive to the fact that American consumers remain highly concerned about COVID-19 and food sourcing – but appear to be acquiring more confidence in their ability to cope in this environment. According to FMI U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 tracker, this lower level of concern is reflected in weekly grocery spending for the household, which has dropped closer to normal levels – $134 week of July 20 vs. $161 in late March. While it’s not necessarily a direct comparison, for context, in our yearly Trends analysis we understand that consumers spend an average of $113.50 per week at the grocery store.”