Coronavirus From the Foodservice Vantage Point

Technomic research explains how the virus is impacting the food industry
Photograph: Shutterstock

Economists can only speculate as to the U.S. impact of the coronavirus, although signals of disruption in the food business, ranging from sourcing and supply chain issues to possible changes in shopping, dining and consumption habits, are already arriving. 

COVID-19, as its known, has become a familiar part of our lexicon in a very short period of time. Since its appearance in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, world and government agencies are fearful that the COVID-19 outbreak could turn into the world’s most severe pandemic since the H1N1 influenza of 1918.

As of March 4, more than 93,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths. China represents more than 85% of the cases and about 95% of the fatalities; however, the virus has spread to more than 73 countries and territories, and the number of cases outside of China is growing at concerning rates. The outbreak is expected to have a major impact on an already tenuous worldwide economy, with economists recently downgrading global GDP expectations anywhere from 0.3% to 0.7% for 2020.

Within the U.S., the first confirmed case of coronavirus appeared in mid-January. Since then, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has surpassed 125, resulting in nine deaths. Healthcare professionals believe there are many more cases, as testing has been sporadic, and that it is not a question of if, but when, the virus will become more widespread.

In a newly published white paper from WGB sister brand Technomic, Joseph Pawlak writes that the foodservice industry could experience significant challenges, given the strong human element inherent in both preparing meals and the act of dining outside the home, presenting both supply and demand issues for the industry. Those trends could also wind up benefitting other forms of food shopping including supermarket visits and online delivery. Read the report.


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