CHARLOTTETOWN – A lozenge factory in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing a “nearly non-existent” cold and cough season due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Island Abbey Foods explained that sales of its Honibe cough and cold lozenges declined in the first two quarters of its 2021 fiscal year, forcing the Charlottetown-based company to cut 30 temporary positions from its production operations. .
Measures to stem the pandemic such as masks, frequent hand washing, physical distancing and teleworking appear to have reduced the prevalence of seasonal viruses.
This apparent drop in winter colds across the country would have consequently weakened the demand for medicines and natural remedies aimed at soothing sore throats and nasal congestion.
Metro, which operates the Jean Coutu and Brunet pharmacies in particular, and the Loblaw Companies, owners of the Pharmaprix and Shoppers Drug Mart establishments, noted the weakness of the cough and cold season.
During a conference call in November, Metro President and CEO Eric La Flèche told analysts that there appeared to be “a much weaker cold and flu season,” as the increased health measures to counter the COVID-19 pandemic also seemed to curb the spread of seasonal viruses.
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Loblaw president Sarah Davis also said in a phone call with investors in November that the company was looking for ways to offset a downtrend in the cough and cold industry.
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s weekly influenza report earlier this month says indicators of influenza activity remained “exceptionally low” for this time of year.
In its EpiGuppe report for the week of Jan. 3-9, the agency says flu testing is continuing at seasonal levels, but there is “no evidence of community spread of the flu. “.
For Island Abbey Foods, the decline comes after 2020 had been a tremendous year and it had significantly increased its workforce in anticipation of ever higher demand.
The company says it has continually adapted to the ever-changing business realities with COVID-19, and has seen substantial gains with its digital retail strategy.
Online sales, however, have not replaced the volume the company anticipated for a regular cold and cough season.
The Canadian Press