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The word pivot quickly became part of the pandemic vocabulary in recent months as companies ranging from distilleries to restaurant chains thought creatively and acted strategically, developing new business models to address needs that emerged during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Spirited Sanitizers

Knox Whiskey Works'  hand sanitzer

Knox Whiskey Works is selling the hand sanitizer its team developed at a competitive price to cover its costs and plans to donate some profits.

Spirited Sanitizers

Knox Whiskey Works'  hand sanitzer

Knox Whiskey Works is selling the hand sanitizer its team developed at a competitive price to cover its costs and plans to donate some profits.

For Knox Whiskey Works, a boutique distillery in Knoxville, Tenn., converting from whiskey production to making hand sanitizer wasn’t too difficult, says Ryan Dickenson, head distiller.

“The first cut of our whiskey distillation (the heads) is usually discarded because it contains small amounts of acetone and methanol,” he explains. “We now collect that and use it to put into the sanitizer to ‘denature it’ . . . i.e., to render it undrinkable.” Members of the Tennessee Distillers Guild worked together on sharing formulas and suppliers, and most settled on using the formula provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), he adds.

“We are able to pump the WHO sanitizer formula through our hand-fill bottling system similar to how we would bottle our finished products, so we can quickly fill bottles by hand,” Dickenson continues. “The only big difference is the containers we are putting the hand sanitizer into.”

And, in fact, he says, the biggest challenge in the process was sourcing packaging, including small bottles, sprayers, and bottle caps. “There are huge shortages, and we’ve gotten around this by sourcing directly from retail stores in our area and businesses being gracious enough to sell us different size containers to fill,” says Dickenson. “For example, we looked for some sprayers for our two-ounce bottle, and they would not be in stock until September/October 2020. There were also delays in getting raw materials like vegetable glycerin and hydrogen peroxide because consumers were also buying up these ingredients to make homemade hand sanitizer. Also, we are competing against other distilleries for these limited resources since they are making sanitizer too.”

 

QSR Pantries

Panera Grocery gives customers access to buy pantry staples

Panera Bread debuted its grocery service in early April to enable consumers to order bagels, cream cheese, and fresh produce along with soup and salads.

QSR Pantries

Panera Grocery gives customers access to buy pantry staples

Panera Bread debuted its grocery service in early April to enable consumers to order bagels, cream cheese, and fresh produce along with soup and salads.

After making the move to delivery or takeout only, some restaurants began pivoting to offer more than their traditional menu items. Potbelly’s and Panera Bread are just two examples of quick-service restaurants that began selling grocery staples alongside their prepared sandwiches, soups, and salads on their apps and websites.

Dubbed Potbelly Pantry and Panera Grocery, both services offer consumers access to grocery items delivered to their homes or available for pick-up to “help you fill the small ingredient gaps in between your regular shopping trips,” as Panera described it in a press release.

 

DIY

Goldbelly & Shakeshack hamburger kit

Shake Shack partnered with Goldbelly to sell meal kits, enabling consumers to make their own ShackBurgers at home.

DIY

Goldbelly & Shakeshack hamburger kit

Shake Shack partnered with Goldbelly to sell meal kits, enabling consumers to make their own ShackBurgers at home.

Shake Shack, the fast-casual burger chain started by Daniel Meyer, launched cook-at-home ShackBurger meal kits, in collaboration with Goldbelly, a curated online marketplace for regional and artisanal foods. Boxes that contain all the ready-to-cook staples needed to recreate a classic ShackBurger at home are available for nationwide shipping. The kit includes a custom blend of fresh, 100% Angus beef from Pat LaFrieda, American cheese, Shake Shack’s top-secret ShackSauce, and Martin’s Potato Roll.

“All you’ll need to do is BYO lettuce, tomato, and appetite (plus take a few insider cooking tips from Shake Shack’s culinary team) and you’ll have everything you need to make the perfect ShackBurger from the comfort of your own kitchen,” according to the Goldbelly website, where consumers can order the kit.

 

Taking a Direct Approach

Binder's Sacher dessert

Bindi is selling its Italian desserts such as sacher—a chocolate sponge cake dome filled with apricot marmalade and finished with a crunchy chocolate coating—directly to consumers while restaurants are shut down.

Taking a Direct Approach

Binder's Sacher dessert

Bindi is selling its Italian desserts such as sacher—a chocolate sponge cake dome filled with apricot marmalade and finished with a crunchy chocolate coating—directly to consumers while restaurants are shut down.

Bindi, a foodservice manufacturer of Italian desserts, began offering at-home delivery directly to consumers in New York City, Northern/Central New Jersey, and the greater Los Angeles and Orange County areas. The items available for the limited-time offer include Bindi’s signature products like Mixed Berry Cake, tiramisu, and gelato, alongside its breakfast line, pizzas, and pastas.

In order to help restaurateurs affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, the company also announced it will donate 10% of its at-home delivery revenues to the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Relief Fund. “Bindi stands by its foodservice partners and will work towards resuming full-time services to restaurateurs as soon as this dark cloud passes,” wrote the company in a press release.

 

Fighting Food Waste

FoodMaven starts delivering directly to consumers

Colorado-based FoodMaven has expanded its service to provide surplus food and beverages to consumers in addition to foodservice establishments.

Fighting Food Waste

FoodMaven starts delivering directly to consumers

Colorado-based FoodMaven has expanded its service to provide surplus food and beverages to consumers in addition to foodservice establishments.

Startup surplus food wholesaler FoodMaven normally provides “a low-cost way to source food for chefs,” but in March, its sales to restaurants and institutional customers fell sharply in the wake of closure orders to limit the spread of the coronavirus. So, company leadership decided to extend its mission of “all food used ... with good purpose” direct to consumers. Christened FoodMaven Warehouse, the service allows consumers to order from a rotating selection of high-quality, bulk packaged kitchen staples at wholesale pricing for pick-up or delivery in Colorado.

“There is plenty of food in the supply chain right now; the system is just struggling to readjust to the new situation,” said Ben Deda, CEO of FoodMaven, in a press release. “We need to create a food system that is flexible enough to adjust these imbalances.” The company will continue to serve its primary customer base: restaurants, hospitality, and institutions.

 

Soybeans for Sanitizer

The Illinois Soybean Association makes hand sanitizer for the Chicago Park District

The Illinois Soybean Association has partnered with the Chicago Park District to produce hand sanitizer. A component of hand sanitizer comes indirectly from soybeans.

Soybeans for Sanitizer

The Illinois Soybean Association makes hand sanitizer for the Chicago Park District

The Illinois Soybean Association has partnered with the Chicago Park District to produce hand sanitizer. A component of hand sanitizer comes indirectly from soybeans.

At the beginning of April, the Chicago Park District announced a partnership with the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program to produce hand sanitizer to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among the district’s workforce and the city’s first responders. Glycerin, a main component of hand sanitizer, is the main by-product derived from the production of biodiesel and is made from soybeans.

“Illinois soybean producers are proud to partner with the Chicago Park District to alleviate stress on needed resources like sanitizer during this pandemic,” said John Lumpe, CEO of ISA, in a press release. “We’re neighbors helping neighbors because, at the end of the day, we’re all in this together.”

 

Mondelēz Uses 3-D for PPE

Mondelez makes personal protective equipment

Mondelēz International’s 3-D printing technology normally used to produce Cadbury chocolate has been repurposed to help make medical visors.

Mondelēz Uses 3-D for PPE

Mondelez makes personal protective equipment

Mondelēz International’s 3-D printing technology normally used to produce Cadbury chocolate has been repurposed to help make medical visors.

In the United Kingdom, Mondelēz International is redeploying its 3-D printing technology—which in ordinary times prints chocolate sculptures—to help make personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical professionals. The snack maker has teamed with engineering company 3P to produce protective visors for medical personnel, using 3-D printers at the factory where Cadbury chocolate is produced.

Specifically, Mondelēz is helping to produce the plastic bands that connect the top and bottom portions of the visors. The newly produced PPE has already been delivered to a medical clinic, the company reported, and 3P’s goal is to produce up to 10,000 units weekly.

This isn’t the first time the Cadbury operation has switched gears to fill a national need. During World War II, the company helped produce gas masks and other supplies for the British military, Mondelēz reported in a press release.

About the Authors

Mary Ellen Kuhn, Executive Editor, writes, edits, and manages editorial workflow for the magazine, working closely with the Food Technology editorial team and outside contributors. She manages IFTNEXT editorial content and particularly enjoys covering entrepreneurial innovation and food industry issues and trends.
[email protected]
Mary Ellen Kuhn
Kelly Hensel, Senior Digital Editor, reports on the latest industry and research news for ift.org and the Weekly newsletter. She also interviews chefs about the intersection of culinary and science for the Culinary Point of View column.
[email protected]
Kelly Hensel

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