In this exclusive seven-minute podcast, Hall tells Food Manufacture the biggest challenges still posed to the business by the crisis were increased unpredictability of orders and longer lead times, particularly for packaging.
"Two big challenges that have come out of COVID: one has been the turbulence in order patterns - things starting and stopping very quickly overnight and the requirement to be completely agile.
"The second has been around the length of time things have taken in terms of supply chains. As we're facing into things like packaging from some of the larger manufacturers, how long that's taken to flow through. I'd say we're seeing a doubling if not a tripling of lead times.
"When that's coming into orders which are doubling or tripling and then halving that makes it very challenging to balance supply and demand across a varied portfolio of customers."
'Renaissance in shopping local'
However, Hall said one of the positive changes to come out of the past two to three months had been a "renaissance in shopping local" and a renewed appreciation of artisan food producers.
Another beneficial shift had been a growing awareness of where food comes from and the fragility of the supply chain and a reconnection between consumers and suppliers.
This shift had accelerated shopper trends already evident before the pandemic and inspired Butlers Farmhouse to speed up its NPD plans, said Hall. "Undoubtedly it's focused our minds on who's buying our products and how we can support them more effectively by shortening that route to the consumer."
Launched two initiatives
As a consequence, the company had launched two initiatives that tapped into the latest trends. The first was Butlers Larder, a home delivery grocery service that combined products from Butlers and several other artisan producers across north west England. The second was The Butlers Letterbox Cheese Store, enabling online ordering and direct delivery of Butlers' Blacksticks Blue, Button Mill, Sunday Best and Trotter Hill cheese brands, Peter's Yard Sourdough Crispbread and Wilkin & Sons Hot Gooseberry Chutney.
Listen to this podcast to learn how implementation of software systems through the Made Smarter initiative has enabled Butlers Farmhouse to become more flexible and agile, while preserving its artisan roots.
Hall also explains how permanent changes in consumer trends will shape the business in the future.