The wintry weather has disrupted food distribution, according to some processors, although suppliers’ experiences have differed depending on their location and product types.
One told Food Manufacture that the snow and ice had not prevented product from reaching customers in most cases, but it had made deliveries late. Consequently, some customers had turned short shelf-life product away as it had missed its scheduled delivery window. “After the product had been made and shipped in good faith, the depots rejected it because it was delivered an hour late.”
Such returned food had to be scrapped. However, he said that because customers had been panic buying, sales forecasts had been underestimated and, as a result, customers had then ordered far more and plants were struggling to deliver. “The next order was double what it had been on the previous day - there needs to be more flexibility over delivery times.”
Another told Food Manufacture that the weather itself had not caused problems, but the massive upsurge in Christmas orders had once again stretched some processors too far: “Distribution is stretched, but hanging in there, although the urgent acceleration of orders prior to Christmas collapsed UK transport.
“All multiples brought forward their orders prior to the bad weather and manufacturers and distribution companies could not cope with several days’ orders in one when they were already stretched.”
One baked goods supplier said that it had not had problems with late deliveries. “If anything, people are more amenable. The Co-operative Group took on extra bread that we made for schools not knowing they were going to be closed.”
One major distributor said: “When we’re aware of the weather, we plan accordingly. Generally speaking, we’ve managed to plan around it. There have been some days when we haven’t been able to get to certain places, but most distribution centres and customers tend to be on major delivery routes, so there hasn’t been too much of a problem.”