The grocery industry of the United States, and particularly North Dakota, is working overtime to meet the needs of our customers. The spread of COVID-19 has certainly changed the way our industry operates, but it has not stopped the cows from milking, the corn from becoming cereal and the fruit trees haven't stopped producing. Most everything that is sold in our grocery stores is grown and processed in the United States.
Our grocery store shelves are empty because of an increase in demand from customers, not a lack of inventory. Stores are setting purchase limits on certain items to try and ensure your neighbor has a chance to purchase like products. They have changed hours of operation to restock product and sanitize their stores. Many are reaching out to employees from businesses that had to shut down to fill needed positions.
Stores have indicated that advertising is set many weeks in advance and want their customers to know that in the short run some items for a particular ad may not be available.
There is evidence that reusable bags could be a carrier of COVID-19 as well as other viral respiratory illnesses. Some stores may prohibit their use or ask that you bag your own. Most bags are machine washable. Cleaning followed by disinfecting is a best practice measure.
An important part of the grocery industry is our warehouse suppliers, direct store delivery companies and food manufacturers. We have been in constant contact with them and have found that they too have been stressed by the sudden increase in customer demand. As with most industries, they anticipate demand and produce enough product to satisfy the needs. COVID-19 has definitely changed the demand.
Our distribution and manufacturing partners are working overtime to meet this demand. Distribution centers are at near capacity and employees are working overtime to receive and process incoming inventory and sending out orders to retail locations. High demand items are being allocated to ensure that all retailers, large and small, have a chance to purchase needed inventory.
Some restaurant and institutional supply companies have offered the services of their employees to grocery wholesalers to help meet the shortage of employees. This will enable their employees to stay employed. These are trained individuals that will quickly assimilate to the grocery warehouse system.
Food manufactures are looking at their product mix, are identifying the best-selling products and are ramping up production of these items. This will ensure that the distribution pipeline remains full of products that our customers are demanding.
North Dakota grocers and their industry partners are working hard to supply our customers. We ask that you shop responsibly and give the system time to catch up. We have enough food and other grocery products. We have the best farmers, manufactures, wholesalers, distributors and retail grocers in the world. We will prevail.