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A-List Insights: Petra Åkerblom (Part 2)

Welcome to A-List Insights!

A-List Insights is an interview series where we talk with industry thought leaders and experts about different topics surrounding logistics and supply chain – gathering their insights and experience firsthand.

Thought Leader: Petra Åkerblom

Part 2 of 5

In this segment we feature Petra Åkerblom, Senior Customer Service & Logistics Manager at The Absolut Company, part of Pernod Ricard, a leading global wine & spirits manufacturer. Petra has been with the company for 20 years, holding several positions across the logistics and procurement functions.

Petra leads the logistics customer service team and is responsible for freight procurement for Absolut and Malibu (another Pernod Ricard brand). She is also a core member of the company’s Freight Board Council, which handles freight procurement for the whole Pernod Ricard group.

This is the second of a 5-part series interview with Petra. To provide context to the current climate, the entire interview was conducted in September 2020, during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

Part 2: The Pandemic

Let’s talk about the pandemic. I know back in April 2020, Absolut had already sent out about 3 million liters of alcohol to produce hand sanitizers. So how has the pandemic impacted Absolut’s supply chain? What kinds of changes or pivots have you had to make?

It’s of course affected us a lot, but I think it’s affected our Market companies even more because of so many bars and restaurants closing. When that happened, you could see sales shifting towards the shops instead. And we had volumes going down, as a part of our business is travel retail like airports and cruise ships, and that business was really affected by the pandemic. We’ve also experienced some container shortages, but apart from that I would say we’ve been ok. Thankfully.

When it comes to logistics, we haven’t had that many challenges. The challenge for us when it comes to hand sanitizers is that normally we have a lot of procedures and systems supporting when it comes to Absolut, and most of the process when it comes to documentation, is automized. But when it comes to hand sanitizers, we didn’t have anything set up, so we needed to do everything manually. That was a great initiative, and just one of many this company is doing.

We are doing so many things for the communities in the countries we operate in that we don’t talk about, and for me, that’s a sign we do it for the right purpose. We don’t do it because we want to sell more vodka, we do it because we care. The hand sanitizer was a good initiative and I’m really proud of that.

Of course, it affected my department because even if we are giving away the alcohol, the tax authority still required the alcohol tax. So, we needed to handle the documentation around that, and we couldn’t use the system for it. We needed to do it manually.

How do you think the pandemic will change supply chains going forward?

I think we are fortunate in that we haven’t been affected that much. But I think the pandemic will change a lot of things in our society when it comes to buying patterns. A lot of people experienced buying online and having it sent to their door. And for retailers, I don’t think we’ll see as many physical stores, because people now tend to buy online instead. And that means more transportation will be required.

When it comes to our supply chain, I don’t see any big threats at the moment. But… if China closes down again, we will have a shortage of containers and more blank sailings, and that could be a challenge for us.

Look for Part 3 of our “A-List Insights” Series interview with Petra Åkerblom where we discuss challenges facing shippers and capacity constraints.

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