A message from FAB MB President

Thursday, April 16th, 2020 |

Dear Food & Beverage Manitoba Members,


I am writing to you today as both a food manufacturing business owner and as President of our association. Like many of our members’ businesses, Food & Beverage Manitoba (FAB MB) is subject to the mounting financial pressures of the COVID-19 global pandemic.


In the 30-year history of FAB MB, there has never been a more essential time for the members, the Board of Directors and the association’s staff to stand as one for the benefit of the industry we all care about, and to continue to supply Manitoba Made food and beverages to all parts of Canada and to consumers globally. FAB MB certainly has a bright future ahead of it, having earned its position as the voice of our industry in Manitoba, and representing our membership on the national stage regarding labour policy, regulations, innovation and trade.


FAB MB’s Finance Committee has worked with staff to review current operations and look for ways to reduce expenses and cover lost revenues from training and other events during the pandemic. I assure you we have taken all appropriate steps. As part of this process, it also became clear that the association will be on sound financial footing provided membership fees and sponsorship income are received on track. As I am sure you can appreciate, this is truly unchartered territory, and while we navigate this crisis, we ask for both your support through this uncertain time, and to consider the value of what FAB MB is doing for your business.


In the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, FAB MB was the first business organization in Manitoba to deliver a conference call for members to understand their rights as employers and to learn best practises for working with employees in this disrupted operating environment. This was done with labour law and privacy experts from one of our associate members, Thompson, Dorfman Sweatman. Since then we have arranged ongoing HR support for members, and based on feedback, we are organizing the next series of follow-up conference calls for our members on evolving labour law developments and federal/provincial government emergency support programs.


I would also like to remind you about some other ways FAB MB has pivoted its services to support both our full and associate FAB MB members:


  • Representing our Industry to the Provincial Government – Since the first week of March, our Executive Director has been involved in twice per week calls with 45 other industry groups, to update the provincial government on the impact of COVID-19 on key manufacturing sectors and service industries in Manitoba and to bring to their attention key issues we are facing. This cooperative effort has assisted the province to develop its response programs and according to Premier Pallister, position Manitoba to be one of the first provinces to recover once the pandemic eases.


  • Representing our Industry to the Federal Government – Through our long term relationships with the provincial food industry associations across Canada and in partnership with Food and Beverage Canada, our Executive Director has been involved in numerous conference calls and writing of briefing memos for the federal government on a wide variety of issues including needed changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, shortages of PPE and sanitizers, developing “playbooks” for employers to handle COVID-19 in a food plant, and the unique financial challenges faced by small- to mid-sized food manufacturers right now.


  • Delivering Webinars and Forums for Members on New Business Challenges – Our Manager of Training and Development and our Manager of Human Resources are working to research and deliver webinars on the topics of most relevance to members during the pandemic. Following the first conference call I mentioned above on members’ rights as employers, FAB MB is arranging webinars on: Working with Retailers During the Pandemic; Handling Difficult Communications with Employees and Customers; Managing Commercial Lease Contracts: Navigating Federal and Provincial Programs for Employers and Employees and CRA Remittances; Getting My Business Online; and Business Interruption Insurance. Watch for email announcements of all webinars and registration information.


  • COVID-19 Updates for Food and Beverage Manufacturers – The association adapted its e-newsletter format to provide timely updates on: the federal, provincial and municipal emergency response programs for employers and employees; important announcements from Health Canada, CFIA, AAFC, Global Affairs and others; and supply chain issues such as availability of PPE, sanitizers and cleaning agents. In case you missed any of these updates you can find them on the FAB MB website’s Resources page.


  • Virtual Town Hall Meetings for Food and Beverage Manufacturers – Your FAB MB Board of Directors has started hosting virtual FAB MB huddles – a place for members to come and connect with fellow members and learn what other businesses are doing in this time of uncertainty to navigate the rapidly changing times. I encourage you to take advantage of this excellent network of peers whom you can call on for assistance in navigating the current crisis.


  • Connecting Members for New Business During the Crisis – FAB MB has always provided a pathfinding service for members to source products and services from our associate members, and to find program information from government. During the pandemic this activity has ramped up to include connecting members for unique collaborations to fill market opportunities and address idle capacity. This activity is happening through our FAB MB staff and the Member Update emails.


  • Promoting Member Products – FAB MB has been promoting Manitoba Made and “buy local” since 1993. Our current efforts are perhaps amongst our most important. In addition to the product call outs in our email updates that go out to 550+ recipients, we have launched a dedicated social media campaign (Facebook and Instagram) to drive consumers to local brands when they are buying groceries in-store, on-line or through curbside pick up. Our last post had a reach of over 11,000 with almost 500 post engagements. The message is getting out there.


I close by thanking you for your continued membership support in FAB MB, and I wish you every success in the coming months. If you have a question, comment or suggestion, please feel free to reach out to me at pina@piccolacucina.ca


Best Regards,

Pina Romolo 
President and Chair, Board of Directors
Food & Beverage Manitoba