This week’s announcement from the governments in England and Scotland on plans to ease the coronavirus lockdown further, and allow HORECA outlets to start to reopen, was welcome news.
As I reflect over the last few months, it’s true times have been testing. And as we head into this “new normal” there may be more challenges ahead. But we’ve also seen people come together in some truly great ways. For this, I want to share my thanks with everyone. The dedication of our people at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), the united front shown by communities and the collaboration across our industry as a whole has been incredibly inspiring.
At the start of the pandemic, we joined more than 200 businesses in signing the C-19 Business Pledge, where we committed to harness the power of business as a force for good during this difficult time. Working together is the most powerful tool we have, and the food and drink industry has demonstrated how quickly and efficiently we can all pull together.
It goes without saying our people are at the centre of our business and their wellbeing remains our key priority. I am very grateful and proud of the great teamwork and commitment of everybody in our business during the Coronavirus crisis. Our factories and distribution facilities have operated throughout the lockdown, with stringent hygiene and social distancing measures in place to ensure everyone’s safety. With our sites running, and all other colleagues working remotely from home, we have been able to support and serve our customers throughout this very intense period. As the economy reopens, we are bringing back our field sales teams, in a phased and safe way, to offer further frontline support to all our customers in the trade.
Supporting our communities together
I also want to thank our charity partners for their hugely important work. This includes FareShare, the UK’s biggest food redistribution charity, with which we have worked through the crisis to provide the equivalent of nearly two million healthy meals and one million drinks to the most vulnerable in society. In addition, as part of our ongoing efforts to help local charities, we supported the Neighbourly Community Fund, which is providing assistance to 1,200 groups and around 250,000 people.
We have also donated stock to Company Shop, one of the largest redistributors of surplus food and household products, which has distributed more than 150,000 of our drinks to support the most isolated members of our communities.
At the same time, we have provided more than 1.5 million drinks to key workers on the frontline, including NHS teams, and have encouraged our colleagues to sign up for the NHS Volunteers campaign. We’re extremely proud to play a small part in supporting the NHS and want to say a resounding ‘thank you’ to these key workers at this time.
Customers facing significant challenges
Undoubtedly, our on-trade customers have been hardest hit through the crisis. This has also led to innovative responses, with some customers partnering up and pivoting their traditional business model to find new ways to latch on to emerging lockdown trends, such as offering online cocktail deliveries, which has been inspiring.
With confirmation that the hospitality sector will now begin opening its doors from 4th July, we are looking forward to supporting our on-trade customers through this next phase. To support our hospitality customers financially, we have put in place a “new for old” Bag in Box stock replacement programme for independent outlets (to apply go to cokecustomerhub.co.uk) and we will be offering special COVID-19 promotions through our wholesale partners. In addition we fully support the requests being made by the hospitality industry to extend financial support until the sector returns to more normal trading levels, including a reduction in VAT for hospitality.
In the retail sector, our priority has been ensuring we work with customers to help them keep shelves stocked with the brands consumers want to buy. But we have also backed a scheme established by the National Federation of Independent Retailers to provide emergency grants to independent retailers in financial difficulty to ensure they remain operational at a time when the role they play locally is more critical than ever.
As the country moves into a sustainable recovery, our focus continues on the wellbeing and safety of our people, our customers and our local communities. We’re also standing alongside other major players in the industry through our industry federations, and other initiatives such as the Responsible Business Recovery Forum recently launched by Footprint and continue to have a constant dialogue with Government.
No doubt there will be new hurdles to overcome in the months ahead but we will find ways to tackle these working together. I am thankful and proud to work in our industry.