Bolstering business during COVID-19: Prova navigates pandemic by “adapting and innovating”
14 Apr 2020 --- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Prova executives are highlighting a series of measures taken to secure supply, protect the workforce, manage stocks, handle logistical challenges and firm up sourcing by supporting Madagascar-based vanilla growers. In an exclusive interview with FoodIngredientsFirst, specialists in vanilla, coffee and sweet brown flavorings, Prova reacts to the unprecedented crisis and its impact on the company.
“This unprecedented crisis has taken us all by surprise. Containment and shutdown are serious decisions for which no one was really prepared. As an employer, we find ourselves caught between the responsibility to continue our business and the fear that has crept into our minds,” Muriel Acat-Vergnet, CEO of Prova tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Our chance to be part of the food chain was not to compromise the safety of our staff in the name of profitability. By suspending some of our operations for a few days, we respected a pause, that of taking the time to listen to the fears. Then we resumed, gradually, relying on our team leaders, working with and not against them. Above all, we reassured by securing our workplaces so that our staff felt that they were sufficiently protected to be able to carry out their tasks without risk to their health.”
Pivoting to help the health service
Prova also took the decision to produce hydro-alcoholic solution gels that it distributes free of charge to the health services in its region.
“We thought about what we could do to help beyond our activities,” Acat-Vergnet continues. We also comfort the truck drivers by offering them a lunch pack and the possibility of taking a shower before leaving. Today, the teams are getting back together and supporting one another. It is in troubled times that we measure the strength of each one, who acts as much for the well-being of others as for the survival of the company. I am proud to be able to count on the energies and generosity of our teams and happy to see that we share this pride, united around the same desire to keep moving forward,” she adds.
Elaborating on Prova adapting to manufacture its hydroalcoholic solutions in large containers, Frédéric Tardy, Production Sites Director, explains that after initially manufacturing hand sanitizer in 250 ml bottles, the company’s factories now produce it in one liter and 12-liter containers designed for medical centers that need large volumes.
“Our objective is twofold: to facilitate the distribution and to maintain supply over time by eliminating any risk of shortage [especially present in small containers]. Prova is, therefore, committed in the long-term to supporting our doctors, nurses, firemen, nursing and retirement homes by proving daily supplies of sanitizers,” he explains. “This is made possible thanks to the authorities that allowed us, as a flavor house, to quickly achieve what we were so keen to accomplish.”
Ensuring supply of raw materials
With regards to Prova’s sales and supply, Patrick Perez, Global Sales Director, says the company has “ensured and thus anticipated its supply of raw materials,” including the “queen of flavors,” vanilla.
“We have organized our factories to work in compliance with the sanitary measures imposed by the situation. However, there is no need to over-stock massively. We have found it more efficient to calmly ensure production times and by anticipating possible delivery delays (due to transport issues), thus we advise our customers to slightly increase their standard order times,” Perez highlights.
“We can completely reassure our customers about the perfect quality and standardization of our products during this period during which we had to adapt our work teams and modify the layout of our factory,” he adds.
Helping horecas establishments
Alessandra Ognibene-Lerouvillois, Head of Global Marketing & Communications, Sustainability and Prova Gourmet Division, tells FoodIngredientsFirst, how some of the company’s customers are particularly impacted by containment measures, namely those in the foodservice industry which is bearing the brunt of a sudden decline in markets as a result of quarantine and lockdown measures.
“These are responsible and committed entrepreneurs such as chefs, restaurateurs, ice-cream shops, chocolate makers and hoteliers. They are surrounded by employees, producers and partners who, through their talent, energy and passion, have always been able to create shared value. They are the ones who find themselves in difficulty today,” she says.
Ognibene-Lerouvillois explains how Prova’s teams are dedicated to horeca activity (hotel, catering and foodservice industries) and have been keeping in constant contact with customers.
“All our teams dedicated to the horeca activity are mobilized in order to listen and to support them in their actions so that we glimpse the way out of this crisis together. We are also innovating in the way we work and interact with customers and partners, exploring new approaches to maintain the quality of the relationships we have always been proud of fostering,” she further explains.
As far as vanilla sourcing is concerned, Prova is also swinging into action to care for our various local stakeholders in Madagascar. “We are assisting vanilla planters thanks to our NGO’s teams while making sure those latter are accompanied in the containment measures, benefitting from systems to support their families and ensuring them income and job protection,” he concludes.
By Gaynor Selby
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