Manufacturers of personal-use home goods are expanding production and retooling factories in the belief that worker habits altered or developed since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus will continue for the foreseeable future since many will not be returning to the office soon, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Conagra Brands, maker of Duncan Hines cake mixes and Healthy Choice and Marie Callender’s frozen entrees, and Kraft Heinz have bought more and upgraded equipment to make more at-home lunch foods while General Mills has added a production line for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal at a Georgia factory.
The Journal quoted the company as saying the project was one of its biggest capital expenditures. Additionally, Kimberly-Clark is converting a plant that makes toilet paper for offices into one that produces it for homes, and Proctor & Gamble is adding beard-care products for men who have eschewed daily shaving.
Conagra’s head of consumer insights and data Bob Nolan said the health emergency declarations and resultant economic restrictions that have smothered travel, entertainment and other formerly common activities have forced new habits and long-term purchases.
“This gives us confidence that this isn’t just a flash in the pan,” he said.
Besides increasing the production of frozen meals, Conagra is producing more Orville Redenbacher and Act II popcorn, anticipating the increased demand for watching movies at home on television or some device will continue.
The telecommuting research-and-consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics is estimating that about 25% of the American labor force will be working from home at least several days a week through 2021, as compared to 4% before the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
Some companies are hedging their predictions by using third-party manufacturers, having seen peak demand already subside.
“It allows us to scale down to the extent that demand comes off its peak,” General Mills’ Chief Financial Officer Kofi Bruce said. “We’ve left ourselves with agility to not build a lot of these costs into our structure.”
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