Coronavirus slams Kroger, Whole Foods and other US grocery chains

U.S. grocery store chains are ramping up efforts to keep shelves full and stores open

As hordes of worried shoppers stock up on supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. grocery store chains are ramping up efforts to keep shelves full and stores open.

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Items such as sanitization products, hand soaps and toilet paper have been in high demand as Americans prepare for potential quarantine conditions. While grocery store chains have enacted purchase limits to ensure access, social media was awash this week with photos of empty shelves and long lines.

“It’s flying out of the stores – tuna fish, peanut butter, all the staples. Pasta, marinara sauce, frozen foods are big right now,” Stew Leonard Jr., CEO of grocery store chain Stew Leonard’s, told FOX Business Network.

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Shelves in the hand towel and toilet paper aisle stand empty five hours after a King Soopers grocery store opened its doors to shoppers Friday, March 13, 2020, in southeast Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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FOX Business breaks down how popular grocery store chains are dealing with the crisis below.

Publix

Publix, a supermarket chain in the southeastern United States, said it is making “daily deliveries” to its stores of essential supplies such as disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, bleach, water and canned goods. Starting on March 6, the company enacted buying limits on certain items and acknowledged that inventory levels vary on a store-to-store basis.

“We do not have any current plans to close our stores,” a Publix spokesperson told FOX Business. “Our teams continue to work diligently to serve our communities and each other during this time.”

Products affected by purchase limits at Publix stores include hand soaps and sanitizers, face masks, tissues, some paper goods, bleach and rubbing alcohol.

Ralph’s supermarket, Studio City, California.

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Kroger

Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery chain, enacted similar limits on sanitary products, as well as cold and flu medicines, on March 2. The company said it is “working so hard to keep our stores open, clean and stocked.”

“Our supply chain teams are working to ensure that the food, medicine and cleaning supplies our customers need are reaching our stores as quickly as possible and are available through our pickup, delivery and ship services,” Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said in an open letter to customers.

Whole Foods

Amazon-owned Whole Foods said it would suspend food-sampling and self-service stations amid the outbreak. Additionally, the company is “working to expand capacity to service more Prime Members with free, two-hour grocery delivery and door drop service from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market in more than 2,000 cities and towns.”

“We have high standards for the products we sell and for the stores we sell them in, and we are committed to maintaining those standards during these challenging times,” Whole Foods said in a statement.

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Stop & Shop

Stop & Shop, a grocery store chain with more than 400 stores in the northeastern United States, said it is in “close contact with suppliers” to restock items that are in high demand. The company has suspended its food-sampling events at stores as a precautionary measure and enacted purchase limits of five items per customer on some products. Delivery services remain active.

A sign on empty supermarket shelves in London, as people stock up due to the coronavirus, Friday, March 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

“As soon as the products become available in the marketplace, we’re moving quickly to re-stock our shelves and make them available to you,” the company said in a press release. “In addition, we monitor inventory daily to ensure these high-demand categories are in stock at all Stop & Shop stores to the greatest extent possible.”

H-E-B

H-E-B, a Texas-based chain with more than 300 stores, said its operations were “business as usual and all stores are open.” However, the company said Friday afternoon that Houston-area locations would reduce operational hours, staying open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time.

“These temporary changes, along with some adjustment to our services, will help us keep our shelves stocked and help ensure our customers can secure the products they need as quickly as possible,” the company said. “Please remember that while preparation is important, panic is not necessary.”

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