Coronavirus: How has it changed your job in the beverage industry? Part 3

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/nadiabormotova
Pic:getty/nadiabormotova

Related tags: Innovation, coronavirus

Lockdowns are stretching into further weeks. What have people in the beverage industry learned from this new way of working - and how are they making the most of their time? We find out how businesses are adapting.

Demir Vangelov, CEO, Soylent

BD: Is it ‘business as usual’ - or have you adjusted your plans under coronavirus?

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DV: We made the early decision to have our entire team work remote, so we have been home since the very beginning of March and the team has transitioned nicely. Our business has not slowed and to the contrary we have been quite productive - we launched into Canada on April 13th!  Everyone has really come together to make this happen even with unforeseen challenges with border closures. It took us some extra effort and creativity, but everyone made it work.

BD: How has your average working day changed?

DV: As the CEO, it is my responsibility to not only make sure our employees have the tools to be productive from home, but also to make sure they are mentally and physically well. 

To that end, we have created more opportunities for our team to connect, check in and see each other. Video calls have become our norm and we are having weekly happy hours as well as time for the entire team to focus on their mental health.  We have given everyone Headspace accounts and are allocating two hours per week to focus on mental health. 

Beyond Headspace we have always had a monthly wellness reimbursement that most of the team used for gym memberships (pre-quarantine), so now that is being transitioned to allow for purchase of streaming workout classes, fitness equipment and yoga resources. 

'We have given everyone Headspace accounts and are allocating two hours per week to focus on and mental health'

Also, I am a father of two girls so I know that folks on our team are balancing being parents and working so we have encouraged folks to include their kids in our happy hours and even have a #COVID_Challenge Slack channel that engages families, staff, and even Soylent pets!

BD: What have you learned from this new reality?

DV: Being a start-up, we have always had flexible work hours and work from home capability. This setup has given us an advantage because many of our employees already had all the equipment, technology and aptitude to work remotely.  Also, our business model of being largely direct to consumer has not skipped a beat! 

So my biggest takeaway is that teams that are dynamic, willing to be flexible, and tech savvy can work well together even while physically apart. It has also shown me how great and fabulous Soylent’s employees are - they have gone out of their way to get their work done, home school kids, manage their personal lives and remain positive during these unprecedented times.

Alexandra Sirosky, Beverage & Dairy Technical Service Manager, Sensient Food Colors

BD: How has your role changed in recent weeks? 

Alexandra Sirosky headshot

AS: As the Technical Service Manager for a customer-focused application group, my role has needed to evolve in order ensure the safety of my team, as well as the ongoing support of our customers and their needs.

In practice this means we are still fully engaging with our customers through bench-work, but limiting the time spent in the lab. Our customers seem to be adhering to the same guidance as well.

BD: How do you spend your day?

AS: The biggest change for us has been to shift to a work-from-home environment. We now spend the majority of our time working remotely by interacting with customers and colleagues through conference calls and emails. 

My team may only spend a few hours each week in the lab doing bench-work, and that is on a rotating basis to help limit possible interactions. This has meant a higher emphasis on prioritization of projects and communicating results and timelines to our customers as quickly as possible.

BD: What have you learned from your new working arrangements so far? 

AS: I believe this current situation has shown that certain roles can be just as productive from home, and could benefit from occasional work-from-home days. For technical roles, however, there will always be a need to work on the bench to complete projects, and most R&D employees enjoy the supportive team-dynamic a lab offers.

I do also think there is something to be said about the positive effects working around others has on an individual employee’s well-being and motivation.

Steve Young, Director of On-Trade, UK & Ireland, Bacardi

BD: I assume it can't be 'business as usual' in the on-trade right now...

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SY: Is it ‘business as usual’ for anyone right now? These are very unusual times even for a company like ours that’s been around for 158 years. What is remarkable is how quickly you adapt to a new normal.

I’m responsible for leading the team who build and nurture our relationships with pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK. Those relationships are incredibly important to us. That’s why, in the first week of the crisis we made thousands of calls to ask how everyone was doing and what we could do to help them.

The value of those daily conversations can’t be under-estimated – in fact, we’ve developed our #RaiseYourSpirits initiative, a plan to support the On-Trade in the UK and globally, in response to everything we heard.

BD: How has your average working day changed?

SY: There’s no such thing as an average day anymore - the days have intensified as we deal with the latest set of challenges. I now begin each day by joining a call with other senior leaders from across Bacardi’s European business. It’s a great exercise to ensure we learn from each other and share best practice. It’s also a reminder that we are in this together, and we are stronger by facing our daily challenges together. Within the UK team we share learnings, training sessions and even workouts and virtual cocktail hours with each other throughout the week. 

What’s important to me is that not only are our customers supported but so are my team. Ensuring they stay safe and engaged is my number one priority.

'I've been forced to think differently and see things from new perspectives'

BD: Your take on home working?

SY: I like to think a challenge is what you make of it. One benefit I’ve found is the change in working environment has forced me to think differently and see things from new perspectives which has sparked new ideas. I’ve spent the past few weeks working with my team on the creation of our #RaiseYourSpirits initiative and its numerous activations which will help support UK bar owners and bartenders through this crisis, and ensure they come out stronger.

I’m particularly excited about our new partnership with Deliveroo Editions which will see us launch a virtual #RaiseYourSpirits bar on April 16. We’ll be giving over 120 bars in London and Manchester (to begin with) the platform to generate revenue from cocktails. It’s very rewarding to take positive action which will help our fantastic bartender community in the UK.

John Harper Crandall, Vice President Sales, Amelia Bay (Johns Creek, GA)

john harper crandall

BD: Is it ‘business as usual’ - or have you had to adapt and change your role and what you do?

JH: Amelia Bay has had to adapt to the situation a bit, but as we are an essential business, our essential employees (production, QA/QC, logistics and some R&D) are still going about business as usual.  Admin and sales have been working from home, and at this point Amelia Bay is not accepting visitors until May 1st.

BD: How has your average working day changed? 

JH: As a sales person, business has changed a lot.  No travel means I am doing double duty; supporting our customers and any needs they may have, as well as as helping teach my children as they learn from home.  Seriously, America needs to pay its teachers more than what they are paid now.  Their jobs are essential and you can really see how much they actually do to educate our children day to day!

BD: What have you learnt from your new working arrangements so far?

JH: I think sales people can work pretty effectively from home.  I have been doing a lot more conference calls and Zoom Meetings. One thing that will not change is having a good onsite support staff.  R&D, production, shipping and receiving experts have to remain onsite. 

Part 1 of this feature can be found here:​​​ Find out how Australian Grape & Wine; beverage brand GetMoreVits; consultancy Zenith Global; Kombucha Brewers International and YesMore marketing agency are adapting to the new reality. 

And in part 2,​ hear from Bunnahabhain Scotch Whisky; Wine Intelligence; Specialty Coffee Association; IWSR and SwipeGuide.

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