How food and beverage companies are handling coronavirus

Travel advisories, supply chain and other factors

February 28, 2020, 3:08 PM

Food and beverage companies have not been immune to the economic impact of the coronavirus emergency.

As volatile stock markets and a growing list of businesses report financial insecurities and losses, big-name food suppliers have also shared news of potential hiccups in manufacturing, production and distribution.

From factory employees being asked to stay home to the enhanced quality control by the Food and Drug Administration regulations, here are some of the brands that have been affected by COVID-19 and the efforts underway to keep consumers safe in the U.S.

FDA supply chain update

"We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging," the FDA announced Thursday in a statement. "However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods."

The administration that monitors both food and drug supplies also shared news earlier this week that it has enhanced efforts to monitor food safety to screen, examine, sample and alert imported goods.

"There is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods," the FDA said. "As noted, this remains a dynamic situation and we will continue to assess, and update guidance as needed."


After rumblings that the soda brand could feel a strain when it comes to sweeteners and other ingredients supplied from China, the company said it does not expect its contingency supply plans to impact customers or consumers at this time, but could have longer-term implications.

"We do not anticipate a shortage of Diet Coke or Coke Zero," Scott Leith, Vice President of global external and financial communications told ABC News.

PHOTO: In this July, 27, 2019, file photo, cans of Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta, beverages produced by the Coca-Cola Company, are shown in a supermarket in Shanghai.
In this July, 27, 2019, file photo, cans of Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta, beverages produced by the Coca-Cola Company, are shown in a supermarket in Shanghai.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images, FILE

The company shared updates on the expected impact of COVID-19, including the delays in the Chinese supply chain for non-nutritive sweetners, in its recently filed 10-K.

"As a result of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, beginning in January 2020, our suppliers in China have experienced some delays in the production and export of these ingredients," Leith explained. "We have initiated contingency supply plans and do not foresee a short-term impact due to these delays. However, we may see tighter supplies of some of these ingredients in the longer term should production or export operations in China deteriorate."

China is ranked as the third-largest global market for Coca-Cola in terms of unit case volume and the company said it still sees great opportunity in China, where they will continue to invest for long-term growth.


The Swiss multinational food and drink conglomerate has yet to shut down production and is relying on its U.S. operations.

"All of Nestlé’s distribution centers and factories remain open. Please take note that Nestlé US sources the vast majority of its raw materials locally," a spokesperson for the company told ABC News.

Earlier this week, it halted business travel abroad to Asia and Italy as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Nestlé shares global concerns over the spread and impact on public health of coronavirus (2019-nCoV). We take our responsibility for our employees and to the communities in which we operate seriously and continue to follow the advice of public health organizations. As a precaution, we have asked all of our employees worldwide not to travel for business purposes until March 15, 2020," the company said in a statement. "We will review this measure in light of external developments."


The privately held global food conglomerate that distributes ingredients and resources for a variety of consumer products worldwide announced that it has also stopped travel for employees as a result of coronavirus.

"As coronavirus continues to impact people across the globe, we are committed to taking every precaution to help keep our employees healthy and safe—and to do our part in limiting the spread of the virus," the company said. "Based on input from the World Health Organization and other agencies, we have announced that Cargill has stopped all non-essential, international business travel for the next two weeks. This includes travel across countries within a region, whether by air, train or other mode of transportation."


The European alcohol drink-maker behind Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and more, reported consumption drops in South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

The company's latest financial forecasts indicated that the lower consumption as a result of the coronavirus has caused "significant disruption" since the end of January and could take a $259 million loss in sales.


The French-based beverage company behind Evian and other bottled water announced that it closed its factory in Wuhan, China -- its second largest market -- as a result of COVID-19.

PHOTO: Products are displayed before French food group Danone's 2019 annual results presentation in Paris, Feb. 26, 2020.
Products are displayed before French food group Danone's 2019 annual results presentation in Paris, Feb. 26, 2020.
Christian Hartmann/Reuters

"While we cannot currently predict the duration and extent of the impact of [the coronavirus], we remain extremely vigilant and are closely monitoring the situation every day, working hand in hand with the local authorities," the company said in a statement.