Afternoon Coffee: Consumer spending falters in February; Report shows high demand for consumer packaged goods; Why COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing takes time

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The US Census Bureau on Tuesday reported that retail sales fell 3% in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to CNN Business.

The drop was more than the 0.5% decline that economists expected from the month prior. The February number comes on the heels of a revised 7.6% January increase after three consecutive months of contractions. The article reported that bad weather across many states was one element of the February decline.

Better times are likely ahead, however. Since the start of March, Congress passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. The economy is likely to bounce back a bit because about two-thirds of the US economy runs on consumer spending.

Report shows demand for consumer packaged goods remains high, but consumers want innovation

Demand for consumer packaged goods (CPG) is expected to remain above pre-Covid pandemic levels in 2021, hitting between 7.4% and 8.5% above 2019 numbers, according to a report from the Consumer Brands Association, Supply Chain Dive reported.

The report also said that CPG manufacturers should pay attention to key pandemic-related trends that redefined the space. E-commerce is expected to remain popular, with 77% of consumers who online shopped indicating they’ll continue the practice, the article said.

Consumers are likely to prefer recyclable packaging, transparency and the adoption of digital labels as well — with 59% of Americans wanting to see a mix of packaging alternatives. Another 14% of Americans chose recycling plastic as a preferred option. However, the article pointed out that consumers aren’t necessarily willing to pay more for these gestures: 42% said they wouldn’t pay more for recyclable packaging.

Why it’ll take months for full mass COVID-19 vaccination

President Joe Biden said last week that all adult Americans will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in May, but the supply and demand issue for vaccines is still a hurdle, according to the New Yorker.

It has taken Pfizer about 110 days to produce each batch of its vaccine. The production starts at its plant outside of St. Louis, where it sits for 10 days before going through additional testing. It is then flown to Andover, Massachusetts, where it’s incubated for several hours. After spending a few days there, it’s flown to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where it’s finally put into vials before being sent out across the country, the article said.

“We’re getting better at it,” Chaz Calitri, the head of operations for sterile injectables at Pfizer, told the New Yorker. “I think people don’t know how challenging it is to make billions of doses of a product that you did not have a process for nine months ago. And then to scale that up even further. There’s so much involved from an engineering perspective, from a quality perspective, from a compliance perspective and from a safety perspective. We’re not making widgets. We’re making a product that people inject into their bodies — into healthy humans — and it has to be perfect. We need to make sure of that for every single dose. That takes engineering, it takes science, it takes time.”

The vaccine supply and demand hurdles have been seen across the world. Europe has seen slow rollout of the vaccine. The majority of the bloc is facing a dilemma: use the AstraZeneca vaccine or suspend the use over worries of blood clots, according to the Associated Press.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has created a divide across the globe with some countries suspending use of the vaccine. Meanwhile, the leader of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooke, said Tueaday that the benefits outweigh the risks.

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