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Resiliency of the Food Industry

Timelines skewed, international building plans delayed–yet as companies adapt, site search project work continues to move forward.

Food Plantworker Ppe

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected only small numbers of food and beverage manufacturers working on site selection projects. The good news is site search project work is going quite well.

“We’ve generally seen food and beverage projects develop more quickly based on changes in the market resulting from the pandemic,” states Brandon Talbert, managing director at Austin Consulting. “Some projects that were already planned have seen their timelines accelerated based on growing demand for certain products, particularly in the retail space. Other projects that were focused on the foodservice segment have suffered.” Talbert says the pandemic has forced companies to think more strategically about their businesses and sustainability with respect to supply chains and manufacturing footprint. “Overall, the pandemic has underscored the resiliency of the industry,” he adds.

Food and beverage processing and packaging has remained one of the strongest industry sectors in North Carolina during the pandemic, according to Mary Lesa Pegg, food processing industry recruiter for the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. “We’ve recently seen some substantial announcements, ranging from Nestlé Purina PetCare planning to spend $450 million to transform a former MillerCoors brewery in Eden into a petfood factory employing 300 people, to new contract beverage manufacturer Prime Beverage Group announcing it will spend $68 million to establish its first manufacturing facility, a 231-job plant in Kannapolis.”

Pegg says some of the activity in North Carolina may be fueled by more people eating at home rather than eating out. While North Carolina has facilities from 24 of the 50 largest food and beverage companies, it has seen some downturn in international companies, food and otherwise, looking to build facilities for the first time in the U.S. “I think some of those projects are on hold during a time when COVID-related travel restrictions are keeping these companies from conducting in-person site visits,” she states.

Related article: Hitting the Spot–directives for site search project work.

Mary Frances Stotler, senior partner and project manager with Dennis Group, believes site selection activities have returned to business as usual. “The biggest impact was from about March to June,” she states. “I would say capital spending in food and beverage really dried up where everyone kind of put a pause on capital projects, not understanding how long or how deep this pandemic would go.” Once the states started opening up, and processors learned to operate in the COVID environment, things went back to normal for site selection, she explains.

“We’ve seen more priorities changing on the facility design side,” Stotler continues, “where we are incorporating social distancing in the office setting, but also with line layout, looking at operator adjacency, and building in barriers or physical separations to encourage social distancing. We’ve done a lot with employee flow on new project design, going through a central wellness check area, incorporating infrared temperature checks as part of the gowning, and the process before entering the facility.”

Other content you may be interested in:

The State of Sweet Treats in 2020

Traceability and Challenges in Perishable Food and E-commerce

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