- Chobani became one of the first major food companies to announce a plan for employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. In a statement, the dairy giant said it will cover up to six hours of time for Chobani employees to get vaccinated — three hours for each of the two COVID-19 vaccine doses.
- Chobani said while vaccines aren’t widely available yet, it is working with state and local officials about the opportunities to receive one. It also is looking into hosting on-site vaccination clinics as soon as food processing workers become eligible.
- Several large food companies have encouraged their employees to get vaccinated and said they are following guidance from state and local officials. So far, most companies have not announced a specific plan or any incentives for employees to get the shots. A handful of food retailers, including Instacart and Lidl, are giving their workers financial incentives to get vaccinated.
As the vaccine rollout across the U.S. progresses at a slower pace than many expected, little is known about how food and beverage companies will respond once their workers are eligible to receive it. Each state is developing its own vaccine distribution plans, often including prioritization for workers in the food and beverage industry, from agriculture to meatpacking. A Food Dive analysis found most states plan to allow workers to get vaccinated in Phase 1B along with other critical or essential workers.
When that occurs, food manufacturers may respond like Chobani and give workers time off, especially if long lines remain to get the vaccine and people suffer side effects after receiving it. Already, major meat manufacturers — early hot spots for outbreaks — have released some of their distribution plans, including JBS, Smithfield and Tyson. On Thursday, JBS also said it would offer a $100 bonus to employees who received the vaccine.
Last year, with workers in some meat processing plants contracting the virus, facilities were forced to close to be cleaned after outbreaks. This led to brief pockets of meat and poultry shortages across the U.S., and grocers putting temporary limits on how much consumers could buy. Time off to get the shot, as well as an incentive could help ensure workers remain healthy and increases the likelihood that production lines keep moving.
The move to provide additional benefits to frontline workers during the outbreak is one of several by food manufacturers during the pandemic. Early on, scores of food companies, including Chobani, PepsiCo, Mondelez International and Hormel Foods, gave bonuses or other benefits to employees who manufactured and sold their products.
Chobani has long touted the way it treats its 2,200 workers and the impact it has on the community beyond its front door as important as the products it makes. The decision to give employees paid time off to get a vaccine follows that mantra, and could benefit the company's bottom line later on with a healthy workforce.
“We’re taking our mission to keep our people safe one step further today," Peter McGuinness, president of Chobani, said on LinkedIn. "Our plant employees have been on the front lines of putting food on America’s kitchen table 24/7 during this pandemic. They’re the heart of our company and we’ll do whatever we can to protect them.”
It's uncertain whether moves like this factor into a consumer's decision to purchase a product, but for Chobani's workers it could stand out. The fact that their employer is taking an interest in their well-being during this health crisis could lead to a more dedicated, motivated workforce likely to remain at the company. For Chobani, that means less time and expense finding new skilled workers and training them.