As the anniversary of the first lockdown is fast approaching, Food Drink Devon asked their members to share with them any positives that they can take away from this experience as well as highlighting any further help that they will need to get the food and drink industry back on track in Devon. Their members didn’t hold back! The resulting unadulterated q and a’s from senior players within the businesses provided fascinating insights and suggestions, and contrary to what you might think, it’s not all doom and gloom!
A world famous Devon gin company admits the pandemic has made them a more efficient and collaborative company.
“The pandemic has definitely made us more efficient and better at working from home. This will remain useful even when things return to normal. We’ve also become very polished at doing online cocktail demonstrations, tastings and gin schools! We’ve been very impressed by the support and collaboration across businesses to help everyone get through this. We knew there was good cross business support in Devon, but this has far exceeded expectations.” Salcombe Distilling Co, Salcombe. Howard Davies, Founder & Director.
Nothing beats a good night in! A social media launch mid-lockdown leads to a boom in luxury cocktail kits.
“We had to adapt to survive. What we didn’t realise at the beginning was that we would end up with a better business. Our main routes to market were no longer viable, and we realised that we had to focus on selling online, and diversifying our offering. This started with postable giftable sets in collaboration with local food & drink companies, and then led us to developing a series of ‘Cove Cocktails’ luxury cocktail kits. These have been perfect for zoom parties, birthday gifts and to cheer up friends and family. They have enabled us an easy way to suggest servicing suggestions for Cove Vodka and expand our product range by just packaging our products with different ingredients. Our main source of revenue is now online sales and it has become a key focus for our business strategy going forward.” Devon Cove, Galmpton. Leanne Carr, Founder
‘If we don’t use it we will lose it’. Award winning Devon Cheese company encourages us to love local food as we leave the EU.
“We are working much closer with our key customers and we have launched our online shop which will definitely benefit us in the future. However the pandemic is not the only challenge. Our sector has some very challenging times ahead with Covid recovery, Brexit adjustments, Net Zero targets and a new Agricultural Bill. We think that it is time for all sectors to collaborate and recognise that food security could be a significant issue for the UK based on our dependence on imports and there needs to be more focus on eating British and Seasonally through every channel. It is a ‘use it or lose it situation!. We’d like more education for everyone on the benefits of a balanced diet and the importance of our agri-food sector so that consumers can make informed decisions about the food they buy and eat in future”. Sharpham Partnership Ltd, Ashprington. Greg Parsons, Owner / Director
The pandemic has brought businesses and their customers closer.
“With each lockdown our wholesale business disappeared almost completely and so we have had to refocus the business and boost the retail side of things both in terms of turnover and our range of products. We have always felt it important to be integrated with our community, but the past year has strengthened those ties enormously and we have had fantastic support from local customers. In return we’ve supplied them with all the cake they can eat and the odd bit of counselling! We’ve also strengthened our links with local small businesses, both suppliers and customers and there has developed a real feeling of us all looking out for each other.” Cakewhole, Plymouth. Natalie Emery, Owner
“We have started doing local home delivery, which is not normally something we would have the time or resources to do. It means we get to deal with more end customers directly and makes us feel more connected to the people who enjoy our beer. We’ve learned that people really do want to support local businesses and will go out of their way to do so.” Powderkeg Brewery, Woodbury Salterton. Jess Magill, Director.
What comes next? What can the government do to help as the ‘new normal’ approaches?
Many suggestions emerged as to how the government can help such businesses going forwards; from reducing duty and vat for small breweries and distilleries, cutting business rates for pubs and restaurants to ensure their survival, providing more financial support for small business owners, and making increased bounce back loans available, as well as providing mental health support for the many workers within businesses who have struggled through these very difficult times. Given that there is not an endless amount of government money, it remains to be seen which, if any, of these options might become reality.
It’s encouraging to see how well many small businesses have risen to the pandemic challenge, by changing, evolving, and supporting each other. Groups like Food Drink Devon continue to provide essential support to their members, and long may it continue.