Tyson Foods makes processing shift amid coronavirus demands

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 3,485 views 

Dean Banks, president of Springdale-based Tyson Foods, is getting baptized by fire in his new role. He first faced supply chain hitches as the coronavirus unfolded in China. Banks was then hit with a major uptick in retail demand as Americans raced to grocery stores to stockpile food.

Banks said Tyson Foods, who serves foodservice customers and retail stores like Walmart and Kroger, is able to shift some of its chicken, beef and pork production from foodservice to meet the surge in demand for retail food products.

“We are committed to ensuring the continuity of our business and the availability of our products to customers across the nation,” Banks said in a recent company blog.

He said as stores face empty shelves amid frantic buying patterns, Tyson Foods has been working behind the scenes to keep product flowing to its customers.

“With more than 100 food production plants in the U.S., our unique scale allows us to quickly adjust and meet the current demand at grocery and other retail stores. We’re working collaboratively with our customers to fill and ship orders as rapidly as possible. In some cases, our capability to shift processes in individual plants is allowing us to quickly pivot to producing retail items. For example, changing packaging from a foodservice product to a retail product can occur quickly because of the built-in flexibility of our operations,” Banks said.

He said U.S. food supply is more than sufficient and Tyson Foods is taking a variety of measures to meet the shifting increase in demand and to ensure a steady supply moving forward.

Nielsen reports in the first week of March, sales of fresh meat alternatives were up 206.4% compared to a year ago, and frozen food also rose by high-double-digits. IRI reports dollar sales of fresh chicken and turkey in the U.S. increased significantly in the first week of March. Fresh chicken accounted for $284.262 million in sales during the week ending March 8, 2020, a 6.1% increase over a year ago. Fresh turkey dollar sales grew more than 9.7% to $38.784 million. Fresh beef and pork saw an 8% increase in dollar sales, according to IRI.