Small businesses are the fabric of our local communities – and Coca-Cola in Canada is taking a number of actions to support the people and families behind these stores.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Coca-Cola has partnered with Sheridan College’s Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies (CAMDT) to produce and distribute protective countertop shields for small businesses.

These cashier shields will be installed in local convenience stores and restaurants and will act as a protective barrier between customers and store staff, which will help business owners continue to operate while maintaining physical distancing measures.

They are made with thin sheets of polyester (PET), an innovative substitute for plexiglass, which is experiencing shortages across North America due to high demand. 

“Retailers and restaurants are working hard to ensure that Canadians can get the food, drinks and supplies they need during this challenging time,” explained Ron Soreanu, Vice President, Public Affairs & Communications at Coca-Cola Ltd. “We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for many retailers and we wanted to help businesses that may be overwhelmed trying to keep their business running.”

Soreanu explained that the project started when Coca-Cola spoke to their customers and realized that a number of smaller, local businesses did not have protective shields or guards installed in their stores or only had temporary solutions.

“Protective barriers between the cashier and the customer will give an extra layer of confidence to everyone during their shopping experience,” Soreanu added. “And, we hope that this investment will enable Canadians to continue supporting their favourite local store or restaurant as our economy begins to re-open.”

Coca-Cola in Canada is represented by two businesses, Coca-Cola Ltd. and Coke Canada Bottling, who produces, distributes, merchandises and sells Coca-Cola across the country. Coca-Cola Ltd. is investing $75,000 to fund the purchase of materials and lead the project. Coke Canada Bottling is sourcing the locations and stores that need protective shields and will lead distribution and delivery.

This is truly a system effort between both organizations.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, Coke Canada Bottling has been working in our local communities help our foodservice and retail customers during these difficult times,” said Kathy Murphy, Vice President Public Affairs and Communications at Coke Canada Bottling. “With a long-standing presence in the Brampton community, working alongside Sheridan College, was a wonderful opportunity for local businesses to come together, and make a difference”.

This project will be piloted at three businesses across Etobicoke, Mississauga and Brampton, and will expand as the needs of individual customers are understood.  

Dino Ari’s was the first business to receive the protective shield. He owns Dino’s Wood Burning Pizza in Etobicoke and was eager to be selected for the pilot project.

“It’s not only important for our business, but it’s important for our economy,” Ari said. “The families of these small businesses need help. They need to put bread on their table to feed their families. COVID has impacted business owners mentally and economically.”

“I feel very lucky that Coca-Cola selected us [for this pilot] and they are thinking about small businesses in the community,” he continued.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Coca-Cola Canada has supported its large roster of foodservice and retail customers. To date, they have launched a national #LoveYourLocal campaign, which embodies the importance of supporting local businesses in Canada. Coca-Cola also created a Rapid Response Resource website, which provides free resources to assist restaurants and foodservice operators during the crisis. 

Naturally, the next step was to invest in the design and manufacturing of a protective cashier shields to help the same small businesses who makeup Coca-Cola’s community.

Sheridan College was particularly innovative when designing the prototype behind these shields. The college is using an alternative form of plastic which is a comparable material to plexiglass; it is just as sturdy and more readily available. They are also manufacturing multiple designs to suit different countertop configurations for employees working at cash registers or takeout counters.

This new material is an innovative solution to a shortage of plexiglass across North America, which puts many businesses at risk of waiting several months before it’s available to purchase.  

Our dedicated team responds to industry needs in an agile way and puts Sheridan in a position to contribute to our communities efficiently and effectively,” said Dr. Michelle Chrétien, Director of CAMDT at Sheridan College “We’re delighted to be supporting small business owners with a solution that helps facilitate safe interactions with customers.”

Coca-Cola is supporting a number of community relief efforts in Canada both during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and now as the economy begins to re-open. The two companies are continuing to donate milk, juice, water and sparkling beverages to frontline workers, first responders, food banks and other community organizations across the country. The Coca-Cola Foundation has also granted two organizations, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada and Food Banks Canada, approximately $1 million each to directly support local Canadian communities.

Coca-Cola and Sheridan College made the two designs for these protective shields available here to ensure that other businesses and organizations can have access to them. 

This project is truly borderless.

“By rallying around our local businesses and drawing attention to what resources they need to safely re-open, we hope other organizations will feel inspired and help out however they can,” Soreanu explained. “As Canada opens up the economy, we want people to feel confident and excited going back into their local stores.”

“Even during the toughest times throughout our 120-year history in Canada, Coca-Cola has always been there, and we will continue to be there to provide relief, support and help Canadians,” Soreanu closed. “Now more than ever, we all need to come together to support our local businesses and neighbours.”

“It’s the right thing to do.”