COVID-19 has proven to be a challenge for Dansko Foods just like the rest of the food and dairy industry. We have seen some significant changes in customer and supplier behaviour, consumer demand trends, staff requirements and volatile markets as a result of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Safety measures in our dairy production facility
The primary concern for Dansko Foods as a business was maintaining the health and safety of our staff. We have implemented a number of new protocols into the business to ensure that all staff could continue to work in a safe environment – additional PPE, safe distancing within the production and office environments, staff rotation to ensure that we can maintain safe distancing and all members of the production facility getting tested for COVID-19 every 3-4 weeks by the HSE. It is a testament to the staff at Dansko Foods that we have had only 1 positive case since March 2020. As a result, we have been able to maintain consistent production volumes going through the plant with little or no disruption to our suppliers or customers.
Consumer trends in the dairy industry due to the ongoing pandemic
We have seen significant changes in consumer demand as most consumers move to purchase more retail cheese and butter products and a significant fall in demand for cheese and butter products from our Food Service customers. Demand for cheese and butter from ingredients manufacturers has been steady as demand for snacking products that include dairy has also seen an increase in demand.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was the inevitable panic in the market as it was felt that there would be an oversupply of milk and all dairy derivatives thereafter. Prices for cheese, butter and milk proteins all fell sharply to levels not seen for many years. The pandemic hit right at the beginning of the milk production season which also did not help sentiment or confidence that prices would not drop to historically low levels. However, as the months rolled on it became clear that the unprecedented increase in demand from Retail for cheese and butter products more than offset the fall in demand from the Food Service sectors. As a result, we are now back to levels that we would have seen before the pandemic began with market sentiment rising strongly amid concerns for low milk volumes in Germany and France. There is also the expectation that with the vaccine roll-out we can expect an increase in demand from the Food Service sector in the coming months.
It has been a rollercoaster 12 months in this business to say the least, with many challenges and many learnings for us as a business. We all miss being able to meet in person with our customers and suppliers and have nights out with our staff. We expect there to be less travel requirements in the future as Zoom and MS Teams will still play a major part in communicating with our peers. However, the dairy industry is a peoples business and the value of relationships and meeting people face to face will never be undervalued here in Dansko Foods. We look forward to getting out there again when it is safe to do so and pushing the very best of Irish grass-fed dairy produce!