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Big food companies focus production effort as demand spikes


Major South Australian food manufacturing companies are ramping up production, releasing improvised products and sharpening their focus on a challenged supply chain as panic buying forces the system into unchartered territory.

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“The food and beverage industry is front and centre of this crisis and we are incredibly fortunate to have such diversity within South Australia,” said Food SA CEO Catherine Sayer.

“The system is under stress because of the panic buying. What we’re trying to do is support businesses to still keep trading in some form, support those who are pumping out an enormous amount of food and making sure that consumers still have access to the high-quality food that we offer.”

Laucke has ramped up production at its flour mills in Strathalbyn and Victoria to cope with rising demand. It is also now selling bulk 12.5kg bags of flour through Foodland outlets in Adelaide.

In a post on its website, Laucke CEO Tony van der EL said demand across the entire product range had risen significantly.

“We have increased our production capability with sites working around the clock to re-build supply and meet increasing demand,” he said.

“In addition, we are working closely with our retailers, wholesalers and others in our supply chain to see products restored to shelves as quickly as possible.

“Supplying our bakery and other food manufacturing customers also remains a priority, as we understand these customers are also experiencing heightened demand for their products.”

Thomas Foods International is bolstering internet sales through its Thomas Farms-branded online platform. The family-owned company with a global annual turnover of more than $2 billion also recently posted news of a “drive thru” store at the old Thomas Cappo Seafoods site on Glen Osmond Rd at Parkside.

The company is offering wholesale, retail and online delivery services of its Australian beef, lamb, chicken, pork plus fruit and vegetables and ready-to-cook meal kits.

Thomas Farms Sales and Marketing Director Simon Dennis said the company had plenty of produce to go around.

He said although the company has had an online sales presence for eight years, it had recently revamped its website and offering under the Thomas Farms retail brand to meet current and future demand.

“Online sales have increased exponentially over the past week or so,” Dennis said.

“We’re constantly looking to innovate across the food supply chain, from the farm gate right to the end plate.

Bulk bags of Laucke flour on sale at Pasadena Foodland last week.

“It’s all about ensuring our customers have every means possible to continue to receive the best available local produce and help alleviate just some of the stress every household is feeling at this difficult time.”

Beston Global Foods is experiencing strong retail demand for its Edwards Crossing Mozzarella cheese and meat products produced by its Provincial Food Group.

However, the company acknowledged some downturn in activity in sales to food service outlets across Australia following their move to takeaway only in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CEO Jonathan Hicks said the company would focus on working with its customers and its dairy farmers to minimise any disruption in the supply chain during this period.

He said Beston was in the advanced stages of producing an immune-boosting health drink, using high grade Lactoferrin from its factory at Jervois, near Murray Bridge.

Lactoferrin is a high value dairy protein that is primarily used in infant formula to provide the bioactive properties that mimic breastmilk. But it can also be used in dietary supplements, pharmaceutical products including respiratory medications, cosmetics and oral hygiene products.

“We are endeavouring to release this product to the market as soon as possible,” Hicks said.

Salisbury cordial and beverage manufacturer Bickford’s is also releasing new products in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week Bickford’s announced it would begin manufacturing hand sanitiser with an initial production run of 60,000 250ml bottles to address a national shortage.

Pasta producer San Remo has been among the many targets of panic buying in recent weeks.

A statement on the Windsor Gardens manufacturer’s website says health, hygiene, safety and supply are San Remo’s highest priorities at the moment.

“Our teams are working around the clock to ensure a steady supply of high-quality pasta products are provided to our retail partners across the country,” the statement says.

“It is a time of high demand, but rest assured we are committed to keeping pasta on everyone’s table.

“The availability from store to store will fluctuate depending on local demand and regular stock levels for each retail store.”

Iconic family-owned brewery Coopers is continuing to brew at its Regency Park headquarters and is offering credits to licensed premises wanting to return stock following their forced closure.

Managing Director Dr Tim Cooper said Coopers was committed to continuing to manufacture and distribute throughout this crisis and was confident it could keep retail outlets stocked.

He said, like every sector of the economy, the company’s customers and supply chain faced an incredibly challenging time.

“We are deeply saddened by the devastating impact that the challenge of COVID-19 is having on our country and particularly, our essential and vibrant hospitality industry,” Dr Cooper said.

“We are working to assist our valued pub, club and restaurant customers as best we can. This includes offering a credit on all full and capped kegs that are returned to us.”

Dr Cooper said staff who do not need to be on site were working from home and strict safety and quality assurance protocols had been reinforced across the entire operation in line with government advice.

“Coopers is working to minimise the impact of the current closures on not only those whom we directly employ, but also the broader supply chain who relies on our industry,” he said.

“You cannot simply turn off and then quickly turn back on a major brewery. Consequently, it is important that retail chains, and their associated supply chains, continue to operate – as is the case in most other countries impacted by this pandemic.

“Coopers is confident that we can remain in operation while meeting the Government’s social distancing and isolation guidelines.”

 – with Belinda Willis

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