WHILE Nestle saw an increase in demand for its products by households, there was a major decline in products that were sold to hotels and restaurants, which were ordered to be closed amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though restaurants were allowed to reopen their doors on May 11, in-house dining still isn’t allowed and hotels are only allowed outdoor dining for their guests.
Head of market for Nestlé in the Anglo-Dutch Caribbean, Patricio Torres in an interview last Friday with Express Business, said Covid-19 has affected the whole manufacturing industry. “When we have situations like this, people really want to ensure they have enough food. They can stop a lot of things, but eating, it’s something that always has to go on.”
Torres who is from Chile, said people began cooking more especially when hotels and restaurants were closed during the restrictions outlined by the Government to curb the spread of the virus. “We noticed the change in sales in the first two weeks of March, but especially when the Government announced the measures after the first case of Covid-19 in country. We saw an immediate increase in demand.
“Now we’ve also observed what was going on in other countries, so we had a provisional plan from before. We were learning from what happened, especially in Europe. They had been hit hard. So we were learning and preparing for any eventuality.” He noted that it was important to manage and handle the increased production which kept their factories open.
Safety a priority at all times
Torres said the company’s first objective from the beginning of the pandemic was to ensure the safety of employees. “Employee safety is already of paramount in the company, as we rarely have reports of injuries. But now with Covid, we had to strengthen more all the things in place, with things we’ve learnt from other places. So we immediately had temperature checks.”
Nestle, located at the Corner of Churchill-Roosevelt Highway and Uriah Butler Highway was one of the first companies to take temperatures of its workers and visitors to the plant and its offices, Torres said.
“Sanitisers were placed everywhere and we tried to put them by every door as far as possible and we increased the hand wash sinks in the workplace,” he said.
Nestle’s execution of its plans also meant that administrative staff started working from home after the first Covid-19 case was announced on March 12.
“Of course those who have to be physically there, those who have to produce, they have been here, under all safety conditions being observed. And with me I’ve been with the team there, leading from the top.”
Because of these proactive measures Torres said there have been no reports of any worker contracting Covid-19.
He pointed out that the operation’s total revenue is down by ten per cent, but he said compared to other countries he believes Nestle Trinidad is doing better.
With regard to how the company would be planning for the rest of the year, Torres said the projection management had for the company has not really changed.
“We’ve adapted our plans to the new reality. So we need to find ways to make consumers engaged. And this is what we are doing. So we need to have the right promotions, the right activities and interactions with customers.”
Another adaptation that Nestle has introduced in the pandemic is the use of ecommerce.
“It’s become a lot more paramount than it was before. Because people want to avoid the use of cash or interacting with other people and cash to minimise the risk of Covid. So this has affected our plans in a minor way, but we’ve adapted our methods to the new normal,” said Torres.
PM visit to factory
Torres said he was certainly surprised by the visit as it was unexpected as he did not know Dr Keith Rowley along with the Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon were coming, until just under 24 hours before.
“When I got a call requesting if the PM and his team can visit the factory, I said yes of course. It would be an honour.” He said some tours at the factory were done and then a discussion was held with Rowley on the managment of the factories and the responsibilities not just in Covid-19 but for the future. Torres also congratulated the PM for how the Ministry of Health managed the country during this period.
“I believe that since the beginning, they acted in the right moment. The exact moment to act, they acted. The Government had good communication and leadership, and they were able to get in front of this from the get-go. I did tell him that we did our job here, and took all precautions. But we were lucky to have good conditions in the country externally.”
During the pandemic, with many people having lost their jobs, Torres said the company assisted its surrounding communities and also gave contributions to the Red Cross.
“Now we aren’t communicating everything we are doing, because we don’t think that everything needs to be advertised. But we’ve been giving back, and will keep giving back and try to ensure we can help those in need,” he said.