Small food and drink suppliers meet the challenges of coronavirus

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Loaf & Larder has been launched to help the community
Loaf & Larder has been launched to help the community

Related tags: coronavirus

Small food and drinks suppliers and manufacturers are meeting the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic by launching delivery services and helping the vulnerable.

As online delivery slots and click-and-collect options for the major supermarket chains are under pressure and are fully booked for weeks ahead, smaller suppliers are adapting to fill the gaps on a local basis. 

Dorset-based food manufacturer and shop Olives Et Al announced the launch of its online store Loaf & Larder last week. 

Based in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, the  26-year-old family-run manufacturer of plant-based foods and ingredients, including olives, dressings, condiments and snacks, had previously supplied cafés, restaurants and pubs. 

The local business has sourced suppliers, found a courier service and built a website all within a few days. It said it had essentially digitalised its current store and extended its range to store cupboard essentials and was providing a service to deliver nationally. 

It aimed to deliver within three days, seven days a week, with essentials such as bread, eggs and tinned goods, as well as the olives, sauces and condiments that appear in its online recipe book. 

“We literally built the website overnight and completed our first food order delivery that same day. We all got involved; during the first week, Giles ​[founder and director of Olives Et Al] was working around the clock picking and delivering orders across the county,”​ said Mark Freeman, managing director. 

Diverting meat sales

Meat supplier Pickstock Telford has responded to the pandemic by diverting meat sales to the retail and home delivery sector. 

Managing director Greg Pickstock said that Pickstock, which sources meat from over 5,000 UK farmers,  is now supplying retailers and foodservice companies, which have recently adopted home delivery, with a range of meat products including mince, dice, steaks, joints and burgers. 

“The closure of fast food outlets and restaurants has meant that we’ve had to respond quickly to these changes and adapt our product lines to suit the retail sector,”​ he said.

“The recent investment in a new processing plant means we have a modern facility where workers can continue to operate comfortably, in line with government guidelines. This has meant that we‘ve been able to respond to the change in circumstances and produce dedicated lines that are now feeding into the retail sector.”

Meanwhile, foodservice supplier Quattro Foods has teamed up with Hive Portsmouth to help those facing serious food shortages in the city.  The Hive is an organisation that supports charities and volunteer groups in Portsmouth to help meet the needs of local vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic with everything from food deliveries to welfare checks.

In its blog, Quattro Foods said there was a misconception that all food manufacturers were busier than ever, explaining that was only true for those who supplied supermarkets or those who manufactured ambient goods.

Quattro Foods said: Fresh Direct contacted us regarding some surplus stock they had, as a result of cancelled orders. They have very kindly agreed to donate this to us and we will use our team and some additional ingredients, along with any spare capacity we have, to turn it into pasta sauce, curries and soups. Solent Butchers also donated some meat to add to the cooking​ pot.” 

Last week, with the help of Hive and local charity Pompey in the Community, it has distributed 140kg porridge, 30kg of mushroom pasta and 30kg of vegetable curry to homeless people across the city who are in temporary accommodation and do not have access to kitchens. 

More Foods,​ a Chichester cake factory, has also made a donation, meaning that they will be adding cakes to the menu. 

'Business is not as usual' 

On its blog, it said: “At Quattro Foods we are struggling, like so many other businesses, to continue day-to-day operations and to maintain business as usual. Business is not as usual but, like no other time in our history, we are pulling together as a team and facing this challenge head-on.  

“Our work supplying a number of NHS trusts and their increased need for supply is keeping some of the team busy and, on top of that, we’re taking our pledge to feed the nation more seriously than ever.”

Dried fruit, nuts and seeds supplier Whitworths has also moved to help by producing healthy snacking bundles for NHS workers. It has supplied these to a number of hospitals and has sent over 10,000 products to the London Ambulance Service. 

“We’ve already started creating and sending healthy snacking and recipe bundles to NHS staff and other key workers around the country,”​ said Jessica Horton, digital marketing executive at Whitworths.

“Dried fruit and nuts are a great source of vital nutrients, important for energy and immunity, and give you a quick energy boost.”

Fatherson Bakery, the Warwickshire-based bakers, has launched a new Easter Cake collection and will be donating a proportion of the Easter Cake range to food banks based in Alcester and to local NHS staff.   

Fatherson's Easter cake range is in-store now across the UK, including in Spar, the Co-op, Budgens, Nisa and many national and independent grocery and farm shop retailers.

Meanwhile, tonic manufacturer Double Dutch has launched quarantine packs for consumers.  For every purchase of a quarantine pack, Double Dutch will donate £5 to the NHS via #FeedtheNHS – the not-for-profit initiative that aims to raise £1m to help feed NHS workers one hot meal a day. 

Related topics: COVID-19

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