3 Reminders for the Retail Food Industry from Hurricane Ian

October 27, 2022
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In late September, Hurricane Ian caused catastrophic damage and power outages in many markets after it made landfall in Florida. Breakdowns in the supply chain led to empty grocery store shelves throughout the state, especially in the most at-risk and affected regions. This storm reminded us why every Southeast grocery broker, retailer and manufacturer must always be prepared for record-breaking storms.

We spoke with Bay Food Brokerage Executive Vice President Chris Chatterton for key insights following Hurricane Ian. Here is his advice, as a Southeast grocery broker, on how manufacturers and retailers can prepare for major storms.

1. Make sure hurricane kits are easy to assemble

Anywhere a disaster might hit, shoppers are likely building or refreshing their hurricane kits. As a Southeast grocery broker based in Florida, we know government officials urge residents to prepare by buying certain items in advance.

Because major storms often cause power outages, officials tell shoppers to buy accessible, shelf-stable foods. These include things like jerkies, crackers, canned food, baby food and bottled water. Beyond what’s edible, residents also need to buy non-food items. For example, they’ll need batteries, can openers, paper plates and other disposal table settings.

“It’s smart for retailers to have plenty of inventory of the items people typically buy for hurricane season,” Chris said. “And, they should make it easy for customers to find these products.”

For example, retailers can organize their stores to streamline shoppers’ hurricane preparation. This could mean setting up specialized displays at the front of the store or creating product clusters on shelves featuring items for a hurricane kit. By grouping items that a shopper may not think about needing (like water filters, feminine products and matches), retailers can facilitate a smoother experience at a potentially stressful time.

“These retailers just want what’s best for the community,” Chris said. “And that’s supplying food and nourishment to everyone, both when everything’s up in the air and when we’re all back to normal.”

2. Prepare for panic-buying and supply chain challenges

As a Southeast grocery broker, we see first-hand that retailers run out of many hurricane kit items when a storm is approaching.

“When a storm is on the way, people panic-buy and over-shop for all kinds of products,” Chris said. “Manufacturers and retailers have to prepare for this in advance.”

Besides panic buying, supply chain challenges due to power outages and infrastructure damage after a storm pose additional problems with keeping shelves stocked.

“If manufacturers can’t get trucks delivered to stores in their normal cadence, you can’t refill that pipeline as quickly,” Chris said.

To help address these issues, Chris recommends manufacturers have a hurricane preparedness plan. This plan should include how the manufacturer might be able to handle larger orders or earlier delivery on short-notice to retailers preparing for a storm.

“It’s most helpful if manufacturers can be malleable on logistics,” Chris said. “If they’re able to react quickly and be flexible with their retail partners, that will help them out before and after a storm.”

3. Rely on your Southeast grocery broker for guidance and assistance

An experienced Southeast grocery broker like Bay Food has a deep understanding of local needs and shopping patterns. This makes them a great resource for manufacturers that may not fully understand the impact of a storm.

“Our company is located in the Tampa Bay area, so we’re no strangers to hurricanes and the impact they have on communities,” Chris said. “As a Southeast grocery broker, our role is to provide support to the manufacturers and retailers to get residents the food and goods they need.”

One way Bay Food Brokerage accomplishes this before and after a major storm is helping with communication and coordination between manufacturers and retail partners.

For example, in addition to helping track, maintain and move inventory, the right Southeast grocery broker partner can also provide assistance with logistics. This might include identifying alternative means of transportation or helping reroute distributors to avoid clustering and bottlenecks on the road.

Hurricane season is always unpredictable. Thankfully, the right Southeast grocery broker can reliably support their clients and retailers with advice, data and experience.

Looking for a Southeast grocery broker who understands hurricane season and the challenges major storms can bring? Contact us today to see how we can help.