Skip to main content
rob magazine

Kyle Scott/The Globe and Mail

Snacking isn’t about just satisfying your nutritional needs or your hunger; it’s also about making you feel better. And in times of crisis, people go back to their favourites, back to what they hold true. One thing we’ve seen through the pandemic is a huge shift in snacking behaviour—it increased rapidly by more than 50% or 60%. It’s still 30% higher today than where it was in 2019. And people have rediscovered some of our brands. We saw a 20% spike in sales for Premium Plus crackers and a steep increase in Cadbury Dairy Milk, Mini Eggs and Caramilk.

At the start of the pandemic, we didn’t know what we were getting into, and we wanted to make sure we were keeping our frontline employees safe, but also making sure we kept the shelves of Canadian retailers full—there’s nothing like an empty shelf to spell trouble in terms of future availability. So we accelerated the adaptation of our manufacturing to meet those needs, but also the fluctuation in requirements from retailers. They were overwhelmed by demand for digital shopping, so we developed a lot of online-only packs around some of our brands like Oreo and Ritz Crackers. At the same time, there was a huge shift to traditional grocery stores, because people could find everything there.

The Globe and Mail

To keep our operations as efficient as possible, we decided to simplify the portfolio in the short term. For Halloween, we decided we would only manufacture about half the usual items for that first season, because it was too complicated, and it would have taken away too much of our capacity.

Through all this, we were also deploying measures to keep our manufacturing plants as safe as possible. We offered up to 14 paid days off for all hourly and field-based employees. That was a statement we wanted to make—that our employees are the backbone of this organization. And that paid huge dividends. Today, my plants are working better than they did before the pandemic, because we’re more efficient.

We did have some outbreaks, and we managed them as best we could. The difficulty going from the first wave through to the fourth wave is that we’re all human beings. We all think, Oh, maybe it’s behind us. And we noticed people let their guard down. So it’s about, “Hey, we’re not out of this. All these measures are still in place at work, but please make sure that when you’re off work, you keep that in mind.”

This Christmas will be the first time in a couple of years that people will be able to spend time together. We were starved of all those opportunities, but now we’ll get our fill with a return to traditional get-togethers and gift-giving. People want a sense of normalcy, and seeing extended family and friends is truly critical at this stage.

There will also be a shift in consumption, where people spend the better part of a month or two going back to restaurants. In different parts of the country, thanks to vaccine passports, people feel more comfortable doing things that give them that sense of normalcy. That’s one thing that worries me a lot—the mental health of our employees, our consumers and the population in general. Because we’ve been asked to do a lot over the past 18 months, and it’s not finished.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct