Retail food and drink trends, Food Matters

Businesses adapt resiliently to new trading conditions

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The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated how much food matters, and how suppliers, retailers, distributors and food producers have all worked to ensure that fresh and healthy food can get to the population. As the food industry adapts to changing demand and operating rules, those working in the industry are being recognised as key workers for perhaps the first time.

Adapting operating models

Many companies are changing the way they operate to cater for consumer demand for food delivery, including traditional food wholesalers and farm shops. Among these is the Hadlow College Farm Shop, part of the Hadlow College in Kent. The produce they grow, and meat they rear, on their 1,000 acre farm located between Hadlow and Tonbridge, is now available for delivery to the local community as they’ve enabled at home delivery during the coronavirus crisis, announcing new opening hours to meet the demand for supplies from the local community.

Shifting deliveries to meet demand

Jacques van Doornewaard is a lorry driver bringing fruit and vegetables from the Netherlands to the UK. He travels about three times a week bringing goods including pears, strawberries and mushrooms to British supermarkets. Van Doornewaard used to deliver to food markets, who would sell the produce to restaurants, but this supply chain has closed down in recent weeks. Instead, more produce is going to supermarkets, as staff scramble to fill the shelves.

Speaking to the Guardian Jacques says, “Without truck drivers everything would come to a standstill. It’s much quieter than usual. The ferry’s capacity is 280 lorries, and on a quiet day there are about 105. Yesterday, on the ferry there were less than 50 drivers. We have to eat in shifts to maintain social distancing.”

In the past week, Van Doornewaard has delivered 3,000kg of pears to Tesco in Dagenham, east London, and half as many to Sainsbury’s, also in Dagenham, with stops at farms across southern England. He has also delivered mushrooms, strawberries and cheese. Through the week, he returns to collect thousands of empty trays to take back to be refilled in the Netherlands.

Utilising tech to reach the masses

Farms to Feed Us was quickly developed with the aim of connecting individuals with local food producers who make up the resilient and still flowing food network. The new site, in a very beta version, connects producers who would traditionally have supplied the restaurant trade, much of which is on lockdown. The new database is helping provide a route to market for these supplies and their in-demand produce, making sure they can find the consumers who want to purchase their food.

Speaking to the Guardian founder Cathy StGermans said, “There’s no shortage of fresh produce on our farms and being fished in our seas. There has never been a more important time to eat healthy food and support your local farmers, growers and fishermen.”

She added: “We really focus on small-scale farmers and growers, where the ground isn’t having its life sprayed out of it. It’s not just about being organic, the size and ethos of the farms matter.”

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