For manufacturers, Easter bun season not postponed amid COVID-19
As the Easter season approaches, Jamaicans sequestered in their homes, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), can find solace in their traditional bun-and-cheese fare.
Manufacturers of Easter buns are producing for the local market but are not yet sure how sales will be affected by the outbreak of the virus.
Michelle Chong, chief executive officer of Honey Bun, said that her company has not cut back on production because of the COVID-19 crisis.
"Bun sales only started last weekend (between March 20 and 21) and we won't know the uptake until after Easter but we have not cut back on production," Chong told Loop News.
Michelle Chong, Honey Bun CEO.
Although schools and small shops are closed, there are still brisk sales of 'comfort food' items, so baking goods manufactures are staying afloat.
"I can only guess that people are not in the supermarkets as much, or maybe less corporate sales to businesses, but people eat more when they are home," Chong said.
Managing director of Consolidated Bakeries/Purity Jamaica, Anthony Chang also said a clearer picture of the COVID-19 impact on sales would be obtained after Easter.
He said the company is prepared to adjust production in line with market demand.
"Easter bun purchasing is usually last minute, so we won’t know the numbers until after. Depending on what you see in the market, you can ramp up production weeks before or days before," Anthony Chang, managing director of Consolidated Bakeries/Purity Jamaica, said.
Gassan Azan, CEO of MegaMart Wholesale Club, remains cautiously optimistic that Easter bun sales will be brisk this year.
"MegaMart manufactures Easter buns and sells within its stores as we don’t produce to sell outside of our shelves. I would imagine that Easter bun sales would be the same as last year, but I haven’t done any analysis, so closer to Easter we can tell," the MegaMart Wholesale Club CEO said.
"For sure, I don’t think we would sell the same as we normally do, but people are stocking up on essentials and food items."
MegaMart Wholesale Club CEO, Gassan Azan
Some companies are reporting a dramatic fall-off in the number of corporate orders.
"We are anticipating that customers will have a reduced level of interest this year. At this point, we hope that there will be a last-minute rush during the Holy Week, Tairk Perkins of Maxfield Bakery told Loop News.
He also noted: “We have scaled back production. We are getting about 30 per cent of the orders we would have expected from corporate clients.”
Nonetheless, Perkins remains optimistic about export sales.
Perkins said that most export deliveries were made before March 10, which he hailed as "good news".
“However we are not sure how well sales will go overseas given the global nature of this crisis," Perkins said.
Managing director of Consolidated Bakeries/Purity Jamaica, Anthony Chang
Chang, of Consolidated Bakeries, is also confident about export sales.
"We are grateful for the sales we have been making given the conditions. We did our exports from earlier, so we remain optimistic about that, the feedback we have been receiving has been positive.”
He added: “The reality is the Diaspora wants to feel at home and Easter buns are part of that. The feedback has been better than we expected.”
With production and deliveries of Easter buns underway, the companies said they have implemented safety precautions to mitigate against transmission of COVID-19 among staff and sales personnel.
"All of us have put in safety measures, as a food company we always enforce strict safety measures. But since COVID-19, we have implemented temperature checks at the doors, installed more hand washing stations," Chang said.
"Our staff has access to gloves and masks the whole company has been sensitized because we started our sensitization efforts in January. The salesmen are taking precautions, we have fewer workers on the trucks at a time."
Jamaican Easter bun brands
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Maxfield Bakery has provided gloves, hand sanitizer and masks for its staff in various departments.
"We have provided masks, increased spacing between workers, we have sensitized them to proper protocols to reduce the spread many of which were already part of our good manufacturing protocols and our food safety plan. We were already working 24-hour shifts but production has now come to a halt for Easter Buns," Perkins of Maxfield Bakery told Loop News.
In addition to providing gloves, masks and hand sanitisers to staff, Chong said Honey Bun has provided sanitised buses for staff and has cut out night shifts to provide for better rest and hopefully improved immune systems for its staff.
With that said, do you plan on buying Easter bun and cheese this year?