FRANCE – Danone, the French multinational food and beverage giant has reported a 3.7% growth in the first-quarter consolidated sales to €6.242 billion (US$6.76bn) on a like-to-like basis amid the ongoing Covid-19 induced crisis that has created havoc in the global food and beverage industry.

Danone saw its volume grow by 2.9% and 0.8% growth in value during the three months period, which Emmanuel Faber, Danone’s Chairman and CEO described as a quarter that will long be remembered as the time of an unprecedented pandemic, which may change the way we live and do business for a long time ahead.

Emmanuel explained that while the global containment measures translated into of temporary freezes of both supply and demand in the economic equation, Danone was able to focus on its business continuity by ensuring maximum safety and security for its employees, both from a health and revenue guarantee standpoint.

Emmanuel says that the growth in quarterly sales was stronger than the company had anticipated, with a China downside offset by pantry loading upside in Europe and North America in March, and categories performance offsetting each other.

However, going forward, the company foresees that demand and supply conditions in the second quarter will be broadly and deeply impacted by a global lockdown.

“Beyond the initial pantry loading trends we observed in March, we are unable to predict how the lockdown may affect both supply and demand,” Faber said.

Danone has therefore resolved to withdraw its full-year guidance given lack of visibility related to COVID-19.

“As a result, the global conditions of both demand and supply will be extraordinarily volatile and unpredictable, as well as the breadth of the mitigation and optimization actions we will consider and implement, with direct material impacts on our revenues and costs.

“Our Board of directors therefore has decided to withdraw our financial guidance for the year, while we are managing with a view to protect and leverage our strong cash liquidity situation,” Faber advised.

Danone said that it will continue strengthening its 100,000 employees’ work safety around the world as well as that of its trading partners.

The company and has already opened a €300m (US$324m) cash easing facility for its smallest business partners who have been impacted by the crisis in order to protect its supply chain and maintain the availability of its daily food supply.

The company also maintained that it is confident in fundamentals of its unique brands, value chain resilience, and balance sheet strength.