How is COVID-19 changing the Food business and how does a small company respond? Part One

How is COVID-19 changing the Food business and how does a small company respond? Part One

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Have you ever wondered how the food and retail industry work and how your favorite products get on the grocery store shelf? With the current monumental changes, have you wondered how and if the food industry may change?

If so, you’re in the right place and we’d also like to warn you upfront: In this blog, we take you into the weeds of the bakery business world and don’t even shy away from dropping some big words here and there! We share our key business learning from the pandemic and how we’re evolving as a company.

Okay, let’s get to it, sit down, make a sandwich or some avocado toast and read on…! So many people’s worlds have been turned upside down during the past few months. We have yet to see the full extent of most implications, but one thing is crystal clear already: nearly all companies need to evolve and change.

Whole industries may be going away and the truth is that many small businesses may not be able to weather the disruption. At Happy Campers, we are incredibly fortunate, because providing Food is one of the most essential industries and people will always need to eat. One could argue that food that is safe and healthy for you is actually now more important than ever.

We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to ensure that we can keep our doors open, in the long run, and with the uncertainty of what the world is going to look like. So what has been our biggest learning? It’s been the realization how vulnerable our own ability to get our products to you, our customers, really is. Here’s a real life story that was a jarring eye-opener:

About a month into the pandemic, one of our main distributors discontinued several of our flavors, together with over 3,000 other companies’ products, from several of their distribution warehouses. These were all small, innovative brands and products. The reason was to make room in their warehouses and bring in more stock of high-volume staple products from big brands, including products like toilet paper.

We certainly get it and there are no hard feelings; distributors are businesses and they have to make decisions to respond to the pandemic, too. However, it was disappointing and presented a real challenge. As a result of this discontinuation, you might have even experienced some out of stocks of Happy Campers at your store.

We fought back, drumming up our hard-earned track record of strong sales and reliability as a vendor. In the end, it looks like we’ll be able to dodge the bullet and bring our products back. However, we learned that this could happen again, at any time, and that we have practically no control over it. It opened our eyes to how powerless we are to corporate decisions of distributors and retailers.

We realized that whenever there is a “middle person” between our bakery and your table, there is a loss of control. Last year, we experienced a similar issue like the distributor challenge that we just talked about above. This happened when Whole Foods stores, which we still love, changed their strategy for small brands after the Amazon acquisition. They discontinued thousands of small brands from their stores, including Happy Campers bread in their Northern California region.

The small brands are simply at the mercy of corporate decisions and our control of what to do about it is limited at best. Small brands are inherently at a disadvantage here. Again, we understand corporations have to make certain decisions, we’re not bitter or down about it, that’s just how the business works and the question becomes, what do we do about it? Now that we have the scene set up, look for the second part of this blogpost to bring this bakery story full circle! 🙂