How the coronavirus is impacting egg, dairy demand in America

Heidi Chung
Reporter

Most Americans are under forced or voluntary quarantine as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic engulfs the country, and that has people flocking to grocery stores to stock up on essentials like eggs and dairy.

“What we are seeing is order flow up between two and three times normal when compared to pre-COVID order levels,” Vital Farms CEO Russell Diez-Canseco told Yahoo Finance in an interview Friday.

Many restaurants across the country have been forced to shut their doors to diners, and as a result, people are spending more time in their kitchens cooking. “It is not necessarily that they are consuming more food but shifting where they are consuming it. It has left a lot of empty shelves at grocery stores,” Diez-Canseco said.

According to data firm Nielsen, sales for eggs in the U.S. soared nearly 48% for the week ended March 28 compared to the same period last year. In the prior week, egg sales jumped a whopping 85%.

Courtesy of Vital Farms

Vital Farms is the largest pasture-raised egg brand in the U.S. and supplies eggs to 13,000 retailers and is partnered with more than 200 family farms. It also supplies eggs to meal-kit company Blue Apron (APRN). Meal kit companies like Blue Apron and HelloFresh have also seen a big spike in demand over the past several weeks as people shift from eating out to eating in.

“During these uncertain times, we take providing customers with fresh ingredients and dependable service very seriously. We have been seeing an increase in demand for which we have been well prepared,” HelloFresh said in an email to Yahoo Finance.

Diez-Canseco explained that Vital Farms has also been able to keep up with demand through a stable supply chain, which he said is running smoothly.

“I would want to emphasize upfront we have seen no supply chain disruptions,” Diez-Canseco said. “No supply chain issues in terms of getting product out from our processing facilities to warehouses and to retailers. I think the biggest challenge is simply that the whole supply chain had to switch from supplying to food service outlets and grocery outlets to primarily grocery. So we are seeing that shift happen.”

As uncertainty and fear surrounding the global pandemic rise, corporations have been laying off workers at a rapid clip. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits spiked to a record-breaking 6.648 million for the week ending March 28, and the U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs in March, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

“We have laid off no one. And being in the food business, we are one of the few sectors that frankly has seen increased demand,” Diez-Canseco said. “People are at the heart of our mission and what we do. We are strongly focused on making sure that our people are safe.”

Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung.

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