It may not quite be ‘business as usual’ for small food and drink producers in Wales. Still, many are turning to alternative ways, and collaborating with fellow producers to maintain sales.
Supporting producers through these often difficult and rapid changes is Cywain - a programme designed and developed by Menter a Busnes that is dedicated to developing new and existing micro-businesses and SMEs in the Welsh food and drink sector.
Cywain’s Marketing and Events Team Leader, Alex James says: “The changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have hit many food and drink producers particularly hard. But there are positive stories to be highlighted too.
“Through Cywain’s continued work with producers, we know how hard they are working to adapt their business plans and services to enable them to continue to provide customers with fantastic Welsh produce.
“For some it has meant changing the way they work, while others have come together to create new opportunities – and have embraced the spirit of ‘clustering’ which Cywain already fosters as the facilitator for the Fine Food Cluster Wales.
“So, we thought we’d share some of the stories about producers who have successfully taken up the challenge of operating in this ‘new world’ we are living in. and encourage the public to shop local.”
Cywain’s drive to highlight ‘good news’ stories follows on from the launch of its online Producer Map (https://menterabusnes.cymru/cywain/en/our-producers/ ). The specially created map pinpoints a host of excellent food and drink producers from across Wales who can provide an online shop and delivery service.
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “It is heartening to hear how producers and small food and drink companies are adapting their businesses at this time – and I am sure there will be more uplifting and positive stories to come.
“By thinking outside of the box, and by working and clustering together, producers are keeping their enterprises going and continuing to providing customers with wonderful Welsh food and drink.”
Over the past 40 years, Clam’s Cakes has gone from a Crickhowell coffee shop enterprise to a purpose-built bakery supplying hotels, restaurants, cafes and retailers across the UK.
Therefore, when the hospitality sector was closed down, Clam’s lost virtually all its orders overnight. Left with freezers full of its award-winning, hand-made cakes, the company swiftly came up with an alternative plan.
Production may have been temporarily halted, but the Phillips family – who founded the business - have taken to the road to bring people a slice of cheer to people currently unable to leave their homes.
Clam’s are now delivering cakes and biscuits to customers living within a 10-mile radius of Crickhowell.
The cake selection changes weekly, with the list published on the company’s Facebook page. Orders are then placed and paid for by phone and delivered to the customer’s doorstep.
“It’s just been our family doing it, but people have been very grateful,” says proprietor, Jane Phillips “we’ve had so many compliments. My son, Lewis, has been making bread so that we can offer customers loaves with their orders. We’ve got a warehouse of flour, so we’ve added flour, fresh eggs and butter to the selection. It’s helping our egg supplier too.”
Also, the family has donated personal protective equipment (PPE) normally used in their bakery to a local health centre. And they have been delivering cakes to hospitals and frontline workers.
On a personal note, Jane has found the telephone contact with customers rewarding experience too.
“I’ve found some customers who are finding isolation challenging enjoy having a chat when they ring up with their order.
“We may not be making much of a profit at the moment, but we are making people happy.”
More information: www.clamscakes.co.uk
JACK AND AMELIE
Unable to launch their new children’s meal enterprise as planned, Sophie Brown and Abi Dymmock are instead concentrating on building a customer base around their native Cardiff.
The two friends came up with the idea of creating ‘grown-up food for kids’ after their own experiences of trying to juggle the demands of work and a young family. They named the company after their children - ‘Jack and Amelie’.
Says Sophie, “While on maternity leave, we had time to prepare new and varied meals for our children. But on returning to work, this became harder to fit in, and we found there wasn’t a lot of ready prepared food available to help with those busy times.”
Their dishes are twists on family favourites “packed with veggies”. They offer variety and balance, with meat, vegetarian and vegan-friendly choices. The frozen meals include Rainbow Thai Curry with Lentils and Veggies, Caponata Stew with Herby Turkey Meatballs, Beef Casserole with Root Veggies.
However, the friends’ plans to unveil the Jack and Amelie range at a major UK food and drink trade event last month were scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Undeterred, and utilising the skills from their previous careers in project management, they swiftly adapted to the situation – and are using their social media channels (@jackandamelie) to keep in touch with customers.
“We’d found a great manufacturer, and we were ramping up production, but we’ve had to change – fortunately in our previous jobs, we were used to pivoting ideas. So, for now, instead of our original plan of supplying retailers, we are selling direct to the public around Cardiff.
“We’re making contactless deliveries and establishing contact with parents. We’ve had great feedback, especially from parents who are now having to look after their children while also working from home.”
More information: www.jackandamelie.co.uk
TŶ TANGLWYST DAIRY
Once a familiar sight, doorstep milk deliveries are proving to be a vital service for many people who are self-isolating.
For south Wales dairy, Tŷ Tangwlyst, doorstep milk deliveries are also helping to keep open an essential outlet for the farm’s award-winning dairy produce.
The Lougher family has long been supplying milk from their 110-strong herd of Pedigree Holstein dairy cattle to customers’ doorsteps around a ten-mile radius of the farm in Pyle, near Bridgend.
Now, as their round gets bigger, it is even prompting the business to expand its workforce.
“With premises such as schools, offices closed, the commercial and wholesale side of our business has taken a downturn. However, our domestic deliveries have increased,” says dairy farmer Rhys Lougher, whose family have been farming at Tŷ Tanglwyst for several generations.
“Demand for doorstep deliveries has been such we’ve had to extend our rounds. As a result, we’ve created extra roles in the company, and when our commercial trade does come back, we’ll be looking to take on additional staff.
“We’re a small family business with dedicated, hard-working employees. Luckily, we’ve been able to very quickly adapt to changes to our customer base and respond to people’s needs.”
The award-winning business, which produces butter and cream too, also supplies customers with eggs and fruit juice. But in these challenging times, some changes have had to be made to meet demand.
Says Rhys, “There has been a shortage of cardboard egg boxes, so we have had to use plastic, and we’re buying fruit juice in bulk. With more people baking at home there has been a surge in orders for butter – so that has been tight at times.”
Orders are placed via Facebook and social media, and for many customers, Tŷ Tanglwyst’s deliveries are particularly welcome.
“People have said how grateful they are for the deliveries and that it is helping them while they have to stay at home. Many people have also said they can taste the difference with our milk, and that when this is all over they will keep ordering from us.”
More information: www.tytanglwystdairy.com