Production of essential items like food, dairy, and beverages was allowed in India since the very start of the lockdown which came into effect on 25 March. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading food and dairy companies have had to change the way they operate their plants. Representatives from some of the leading FMCG companies talked about these changes in a webinar organized by Reed Exhibitions on 22 May. The webinar dealt with the issue of food packaging during and post-lockdown.
Ashok Tyagi of Haldiram’s said that all of the company’s plants have adapted to the new situation and employees working in these plants have to wear masks, maintain physical distancing, go through regular temperature checks, and sanitize their hands every half hour.
Haldiram’s has also been conducting regular training programs for its employees so that they understand and appreciate the logic behind these measures. It has also made changes to its plant layout so that physical distancing can be properly implemented.
“After following these rules for the last two months, we have adapted well to the new norms. It was much easier for companies like Haldiram’s because we have a very high level of automation in our plants and processes which means we have minimal human involvement. I feel in the post-lockdown world, the unorganized players will also need to focus on automation, as it will play a big role in the future,” Tyagi said.
Barun Banerjee of Nestle India said that his company too has been focusing on physical distancing and other safety measures during the past two months.
“All our plants have been up and running and are following physical distancing, conducting temperature checks of employees and making sure the packaging materials that arrive are safe,” said Banerjee.
Nestle India faced some issues in the delivery of packaging materials in the early part of the lockdown due to the disruption in transportations. However, this problem was sorted out soon.
“Yes, in the very early phases of the lockdown we did face challenges in supplies of packaging materials but the problem was sorted out soon with the help from the authorities. Since then we have been able to meet our volume requirements,” he said.
The new working environment has also made Nestle India look for raw materials locally that it now imports. “We have started to look for local suppliers for things that we are currently importing so that we can deliver our products on time,” Banerjee said.
Ramesh Ramchandran of PepsiCo India said that there is no extra risk involved with food packaging. And since there is now a greater awareness about COVID-19, the risks are even lower. He said that in the post-lockdown world, brand owners will focus more on smart packaging.