The economic impact of coronavirus and the companies lending a hand during lockdown

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

The importance of bread is particularly prevelent during these unprecedented times. Pic: GettyImages/nerudol
The importance of bread is particularly prevelent during these unprecedented times. Pic: GettyImages/nerudol

Related tags: coronavirus, Aryzta, Bakedin, Coeliac uk, Red Star, Lesaffre, Panera bread, Great Harvest Bread Co., food insecurity, Catering

Feeding America estimates that an additional 17.1 million people could face hunger in the next six months because of the pandemic, increasing the urgent need for food assistance. Meanwhile, the outbreak has placed a strain on companies like Aryzta, but boosted business for those like Bakedin.

Aryzta provides update on COVID-19 impact

In March, Aryzta said it was expecting a ‘material impact’ on its business with the closure of hospitality industries amid government lockdowns to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

Since then, the Swiss-Irish bakery business said it has taken “immediate and decisive action to maximise cash and reduce costs”​ by suspending capital expenditure for the time being. It added it had accrued “savings versus plan”​ of €50m.

Around 30% of its workforce has been furloughed. The executive management committee has agreed to take a 30% pay cut over the next three months, while the wider leadership team will see a 15% reduction. The company’s board of directors has also agreed to lower its fees by 30%.

The Swiss-Irish bakery business halted production at three of its plants in Europe and five in North America at the end of April, along with temporarily closing production lines within bakery plants to reduce capacity in line with demand.

Aryzta is also postponing several of the planned Project Renew programmes – under the three-year cost-savings strategy launched by CEO Kevin Toland in 2017 – that require cash to implement.

In a statement, Aryzta said it had “received the requisite consent of the majority of its lenders for an amendment of its financial covenants.

“The amendment shall apply to the forthcoming two covenant tests relating to the annual financial statements as of the end of July 2020 and the interim financial statements as of the end of January 2021.”

The company added its net debt-to-EBITDA ratio “shall be lower or equal to” six times, and the net interest coverage ratio “shall be greater” than 1.5 times. On May 4, the company holds liquidity of more than €385m, up from €360m on March 24.

Bakedin attests to Brits home baking binge during lockdown

UK baking kit business Bakedin has seen demand for its product range surge as subscriptions to its popular monthly Baking Club climbed by over 1,200%.

“We’re pulling out all the stops to keep up with demand right now,”​ said founder Joseph Munns.

“Honestly, there is an element of being in the right place at the right time, but we’ve worked incredibly hard to build these foundations so we’re able to meet the increased demand.

“This increase is directly down to having a product that customers really need in this coronavirus climate – delicious treats, shared, simple activities and something to put a smile on faces. Baking is incredibly therapeutic, too.”

The Basingstoke-based brand said it saw subscriber numbers increase by 178% in the first week of lockdown in the UK, and the figures have continued to rise daily, peaking at almost 1,000 in one day.

The brand is known for its signature subscription boxes, cinnamon bun kits, rainbow cakes and newly launched ‘boozy baking’ range. The kits contain all the ingredients in the right quantities so consumers enjoy a baking-from-scratch experience with little fuss and no waste. Available from Bakedin’s online bakeshop, Amazon, Wicked Uncle, as well as retailers like Costco, Hobbycraft, Lakeland and Tesco.

Coeliac UK supports catering industry

Coeliac UK is celebrating its Gluten Free Community week – May 11-17 – by offering a 20% discount to caterers who take its online course during that week.

The online catering course is a great way to get staff to understand the needs of those requiring a gluten free diet​,” said Jane Devonshire, Coeliac UK ambassador and MasterChef champion.

It is easy to do and underlines principals that everyone should have in place legally when offering a gluten-free option on the menu.

“Research shows that people with coeliac disease – and the family and friends they eat out with – are currently worth a potential £100m-a-year to venues that can cater for them. So what a great time to do it now, so when everything opens you can hit the ground running offering great food to all your customers​.”

 The course – which takes approximately one and half hours to complete – is suitable for all food industry professionals and provides indepth training on:

  • understanding coeliac disease and the gluten free diet
  • the law on gluten free
  • choosing the right ingredients and gluten free storage
  • preparing and cooking gluten free food
  • cleaning and personal hygiene
  • communicating with staff and customers
  • monitoring gluten free procedures.

On successful completion, a personalised certificate from Coeliac UK can be downloaded to be displayed or added to training records.

Individual access to the training costs £70 and can be purchased here.​To take advantage of the special discount use the code: gfaware20.

Spread the word with Panera

The sandwich chain giant is raising funds for Together Without Hunger​– a campaign to help provide 500,000 freshly-prepared meals to local Feeding America food banks.

The campaign is receiving a boost from a portion of the proceeds from downloads and streams of Elektra recording artist Livingston’s new single ‘Say The Word’, which was inspired by the unprecedent humanitarian crisis.

“I heard about the charitable campaign with Panera to provide up to 500,000 meals to people in need as a result of the virus,” ​said Livingston.

It reminded me of lyrics I had recently written about identifying with other people’s pain and the value of asking for help, which resonated more now than ever.

“I was inspired to go back to those lyrics and incorporating a children’s choir helped bring out the meaning of ‘Say The Word’ and really spoke to the main idea of Panera’s campaign – we're all in this together.”

Panera is also asking those who can afford it to donate to the cause, where a mere $3 donation will help put a freshly-prepared meal on the table for a person in need. A ‘family meal’ consists of four half meat or cheese sandwiches made with whole grain bread, four bags of kettle chips and four apples.

Americans are encouraged to spread the word by taking part in the #SeeAPlateFillAPlate challenge by decorating an empty plate, sharing a selfie with their creation on Instagram and tagging five friends to join the movement.

Red Star donates bread to local communities

Red Star is donating food parcels worth $50,000 to food banks during the month of May.

Each week, the firm – which is part of the global Lesaffre group – will donate $2,000 worth of bread and other items to local food banks in the cities in which the company operates, including Linn Community Food Banks in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Wiregrass Area Food Bank in Dothan, Alabama, and Feed America Eastern Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

The yeast supplier is also supporting bakers who are struggling due to the pandemic through this effort, as the 6,000 loaves of bread to be donated each week will be purchased from local bakers facing decreased sales.

“When we heard that bread was in need, our teams came up with the idea of purchasing bread from local retail bakers who are suffering as restaurants and small shops are closed in response to COVID-19,”​ said Tom Benner, president and CEO of Red Star.

“With this programme, our teams are proud to be helping people in need and businesses in our hometowns.”

Great Harvest on mission to make and donate bread

The Great Harvest Bread Co. in Virginia’s Fairfax County is asking Americans to donate cash, which can be translated into loaves of bread to be distributed to local food banks.

For every $5 the business gets, it is able to make and donate one loaf of bread.

“A normal loaf of bread costs $8.25,”​ said manager Jeffrey Connelly. “We’ve brought it down to $5, which gives us enough money to cover the costs that we have and get the bread out there.”

If someone donates $100, the business throws in an five additional loaves.

To date, the business has taken in around $3,000 in donations, resulting in nine deliveries of more than 1,000 loaves of bread.

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