Post-COVID-19: ‘The New Normal’

Fatherson Bakery boss: how pandemic changed NPD priorities

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Smith: 'We have seen a number of our customers reopening'
Smith: 'We have seen a number of our customers reopening'

Related tags Bakery

Fatherson Bakery managing director Laurence Smith claims the impact of coronavirus has forced the business to reorganise its new product development priorities, with half its distribution points – hospitality and garden centres – closed off.

In this exclusive podcast, the boss of the business that won Small Bakery Manufacturing Company of The Year at this year’s Food Manufacture Excellence Awards​ told Food Manufacture: “In terms of seasons, Easter for us was certainly lower than expectation because that was when COVID-19 hit.

“So we have been busy preparing our Hallowe’en and Christmas ranges. They are all buttoned down and they are being presented to customers and we’re having some extremely positive feedback already and I think a number of retailers may well go earlier this year than ever in these seasons.

“In addition to that, when you look at our direct deliver website, we’re seeing a lot more purchases going along as the weeks go by. We supply flour and other products. Cakes remain strong.”

Fruit pies

Smith said sales of Fatherson Bakery’s fruit pies in particular had risen significantly across the lockdown period. “We believe through retail as well as our website that people are buying them to freeze down, so that they can then have them last longer and use them as a stock item, rather than consuming them within the ambient seven days they currently have.”

He said the business had to keep pace with rapid shifts in trends throughout lockdown. “The products that consumers are looking to buy and their buying behaviour changes. Online, the types of products they are going to be looking for are something they can put in the store cupboard.

“We have readjusted our innovation to delay something that we were launching in spring and autumn, to move to next year to allow us to bring through some exciting innovation to satisfy consumers' needs currently.”

‘Positive signs’

With the Government now discussing an easing of the lockdown, Smith said the market was already displaying very positive signs. “The first two to three weeks were quite tough. It was all quite unknown what was going to happen. We were in a better position than other bakeries that I’m aware of. However, we were impacted.

“What we have seen in the last few weeks is a number of our customers reopening. Our telesales ladies were saying there were double digit new openings in the past couple of days, so the outlook is looking more positive.”

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