Oscar Mayer deli meat still flowing freely from Kraft Heinz plants during coronavirus pandemic: CEO

The Oscar Mayer deli meat is still flowing freely out of Kraft Heinz’s enormous distribution centers even as it takes greater precautions to ensure the safety of workers during the height of the coronavirus outbreak.

Kraft Heinz operates 80 food manufacturing plants around the world, 40 of which are in the United States.

“We have all our plants operating at this moment, actually not only in the United States but in the world,” Kraft Heinz CEO Miguel Patricio told Yahoo Finance in an interview. “The vast majority in the U.S. are working three shifts. We have very tough procedures on sanitation and hygiene and procedures on social distancing and checking the temperature of our employees. At any sign of people feeling not very comfortable we send them home. We’ve been working on this. So I think that so far, things are OK, it’s a tough situation and tough environment, but they’re OK.”

Patricio said there are no plans to close any manufacturing plants.

Kraft Heinz’s ability to keep its plants operating at full steam during the worst of the coronavirus have helped it meet the surge in demand by shoppers for packaged food. In turn, that has lifted the fortunes of Kraft Heinz which for several years has struggled with the shift by consumers to healthier fare and fresh food.

The company said Monday first-quarter organic sales are expected to increase 6%, a marked reversal from a 2.2% drop in the fourth quarter as consumers stock up on staples. The lift to earnings from the sales jolt will be non-existent though, due to costs associated with meeting the unexpected demand.

A traditional package of Oscar Mayer bologna is seen alongside the brand’s Delifresh honey smoked turkey. (AP Photo, File)

Concerns on the health of the U.S. food supply chain linger, however.

Industry experts Yahoo Finance have talked with remain worried about workers refusing to go into work on fear of catching the coronavirus. Moreover, if outbreaks hit food manufacturing sites it would lead to plant closures and less goods arriving to supermarkets during a key period of enormous consumer demand.

Those concerns were validated this week.

Meat producing giant Tyson Foods said Monday it suspended operations at a key pork processing plant in Iowa. The action came after more than two dozen workers contracted the coronavirus.

The Iowa plant will be closed for the entire week. All 1,400 of the plant’s workers have been furloughed. It’s unclear when the plant will reopen.

At Kraft Heinz “we believe that our our people are our true heroes. They understand that they have a very important duty, a big responsibility to feed America. And they have to keep working and work very hard. And people are very proud,” Patricio said. “The morale is very high. Because they understand, we understand that we have a role in society. That is a very important one at this moment.”

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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