Consumer brands boost production, betting workers staying home long term 

Consumer product companies are expanding factories and revamping production lines, wagering that work-from-home habits like growing beards and fixing quick lunches will outlast the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions of Americans spent much of the year working from home. While legions of employers are planning to reopen their offices, many have said they would let employees continue working remotely some or all of the time once the pandemic subsides.

As a result, many food and consumer products companies are investing in factories, equipment and brands to provide more of those items for years to come, seeking to accommodate consumers who are making more coffee, buying more casual clothes and tending beards with trimmers and balm rather than shaving them off, The Wall Street Journal reports

Conagra Brands Inc. and Kraft Heinz Co. are buying and upgrading equipment to make more at-home lunch foods. Kimberly-Clark Corp. is converting a plant to make toilet paper for homes instead of offices.

These decisions follow an unparalleled period of growth for grocery makers, whose sales surged with the onset of the pandemic. Those companies initially added shifts and narrowed product variety to increase capacity, but many resisted making longer-lasting investments that could backfire if demand waned.

Global Workplace Analytics, a telecommuting research and consulting firm, estimates that roughly one-quarter of U.S. workers will be home at least several days a week at the end of 2021, compared with about 4% before the pandemic. 

There is risk in expanding production, though. Campbell and General Mills have both said that sales growth is already moderating from earlier in the pandemic. There is no guarantee that demand will remain high enough to require the extra production capacity. Read the full story.