March 26, 2020

Every national crisis tests us and those we rely on. During the coronavirus outbreak, we need to obtain enough food, drink and toilet paper – and not necessarily in that order. Grocers are challenged to keep their shelves full as some shoppers have their own ideas about how much is enough.


In many areas of the country, stores are temporarily closed because they are considered non-essential. Supermarkets and pharmacies are open, of course, because we need food and medicine.  Liquor stores in New York City remain open for those of us who self-medicate in a unique way.  

The coronavirus has been around long enough to provide a report card of our actions. I divide my analysis into the Good , the Bad...

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John Karolefski -
Grocery Maven,
Author & Speaker

Veteran analyst John Karolefski has followed the grocery industry for over 25

years in print as well

as on radio and

television. He has lots

of stories to tell.


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Bye, Bye Reusable Bags

In the last six months, several supermarkets across the country eliminated plastic bags at checkout and encouraged shoppers to bring reusable bags to tote their groceries. The coronavirus may turn that around. For example, Redner’s Markets in Reading, Pa. issued this statement: “We are asking guests to refrain from bringing reusable (eco) bags into stores for use. These bags, while durable for multi-uses, can be carriers for the virus and could cause further spread. Our cashiers will be automatically issuing single use, plastic bags until further notice.” Weis Markets in Pennsylvania and Giant Eagle in the northeast said reusable bags are no longer allowed for use in their stores.


Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

During the pandemic, shoppers are leaving the grocery store with water, toilet paper, and pantry staples. But not many folks have flowers in their basket. What’s worse, many supermarkets and distributors are canceling orders or turning deliveries away. The lack of sales is devastating flower farmers, wholesale distributors, retail designers and all others who work in related businesses. If people don’t start buying American-grown flowers immediately, experts say, these businesses won’t survive.


Beer and Booze for Hand Sanitizers

Major producers of beer and hard liquor are donating millions of liters of alcohol to make hand sanitizers, which have become a hot product during the pandemic. Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest beer maker, will start shipping some 50,000 liters of disinfectant made with alcohol removed from its alcohol-free beers for use in hospitals in several European countries. Diageo, the world’s largest distiller, will donate 2 million liters of grain neutral spirit to help manufacturers make more than 8 million 250-ml bottles of sanitizers that are in short supply in countries hard hit by the virus. Pernod Ricard, maker of Jameson whiskey, donated 70,000 liters of alcohol for use in hydroalcoholic gel.

Big Brands Step Up during Pandemic

Many of the country’s largest food companies are giving bonuses to employees and hiring new ones to cope with the coronavirus outbreak. For example, Hormel Foods giving more than $4 million in bonuses to 13,000 plant workers who provide high-quality food during the pandemic. Mondelez has pledged $15 to support communities during the outbreak and are extending paid sick leave for employees affected by the virus.


Procter & Gamble’s Global Disaster Relief team has donated more than $5 million in cash and products such as diapers, deodorant and toothbrushes to at-risk communities…..Clorox Company Foundation donated $5 million to three organizations on the front lines of fighting coronavirus: Direct Relief, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation's Emergency Response Fund and the American Red Cross…..Goya Foods has donated 18,225 meals to students of six New York City high schools in anticipation of the financial impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic…..Walmart and its foundation have pledged $25 million to help front-line organizations respond to the pandemic.  


In the Stores


Walmart, Kroger, Dierberg’s in St. Louis and other chains are installing plexiglass partitions between cashiers and customers at checkout to minimize personal contact during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kroger, the country’s largest grocer, will provide a one-time bonus to every hourly customer service, manufacturing, supply chain and front-line grocery associate who has worked during the pandemic. Full-time workers get $300 and part-timers get $150.

Giant Food, a greater Washington D.C. grocery chain, is donating $550,000 and 1,200 hams to five Feeding America food banks to help families especially impacted by the pandemic.


Pharmacies operated by Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos. will waive delivery fees for same-day and next-day deliveries, as well as for mail deliveries until May 1, to help customers easily obtain medications during the coronavirus.

Michigan-based Meijer is providing special shopping hours for “essential service workers” such as doctors, nurses, pharmacy and supermarket employees. They can shop on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Big Y World Class Markets donated $125,000 to five area food banks in order to help them respond to the challenges they face in helping to feed others during the pandemic.

Creative New Products


A travel-size hand sanitizer from CBD Living combines 50 mg of 100% organic U.S.-grown hemp with 62% ethyl alcohol to sterilize hands, and Vitamin E and Aloe to deliver moisture and keep skin smooth. CBD Living products are sold nationwide in over 5,000 stores. For more information on the complete line, visit

Manischewitz’s Gluten-Free Sicilian-Style Pizza from Kayco Brands has a dough-like texture with gooey mozzarella. Suitable for Passover.

Leinenkugel’s Spritzen from the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company is a line of beers made with “a splash of seltzer.” The beers do not contain sugar or artificial ingredients. Three flavors: Grapefruit, Raspberry Lemon and Pineapple Strawberry.

Chiamilk from Mamma Chai is an unsweetened dairy-free, plant-based milk alternative made from nutrient-rich chia seeds. The unsweetened beverage comes in original and vanilla.

Beyond Breakfast Sausage from Beyond Meat are plant-based patties, which have 50% less fat than pork sausage. Each package contains six patties. 


© 2020 by Primary Communications