Food and Drink Wales

As with high street shopping, the food and beverage industry has been gradually making the shift from bricks-and-mortar to online, with a rise in takeaway and grocery delivery services. However, this change has long been constrained by a wealth of retail choice and supply chain logistics limited by small margins on produce.

Until now. Driven by lockdowns and the shuttering of alternative venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the industry’s move to digital. It has not only forced improvements in the consumer experience, but has seen upgrades in backend systems, data analytics and supply chain tools.

Food and beverage companies that have embraced tech and successfully made the shift to digital have emerged from the pandemic stronger and leaner, with a solid platform for future growth. Many have already turned to Superfast Business Wales, which offers a free programme of digital workshops and seminars, with Digital Business Advisers on hand to provide one-to-one advice and personalised action plans. Here are some of their stories.

With the help of Superfast Business Wales, KD’s Bake House set up a website, Google listing and social media channels.

Launching a business at the best of times is difficult; doing it during the unprecedented events of a pandemic could feel like a lost cause. But The Tasteful Cake Company has not only survived, it has prospered, thanks in no small part to owner Lyn Waddington’s quick reactions. With the shop forced to close during the pandemic, and with food and wedding festivals cancelled, Lyn knew she had to pivot to online sales. Her business was already tech-savvy, but she had little experience of reaching customers online.

By registering for free Superfast Business Wales support, Lyn signed up for webinars on social media, SEO (search engine optimisation), digital marketing and customer relationship management (CRM). With additional guidance from a dedicated Digital Business Adviser, Lyn boosted her company’s online presence – running adverts on Facebook and Instagram. Sales took off, securing the business in the short-term and positioning her for future growth.

“Drawing on the free Superfast Business Wales IT training during lockdown,” says Lyn Waddington, “kept me focused on pushing forward with my business, despite all the restrictions on trading due to Covid. The online sessions were engaging and backed up with excellent resource packs that I can go back to again and again… Thank you SFBW!"

Moving to digital also proved to be the saviour of KD’s Bake House, which is situated in Abergavenny Indoor Market. Lukasz Kowalski-Davies bought the business only a month before the first lockdown in March 2020 and, like everyone else in the industry, he was forced to close when the market shut its doors.

“Due to the closure of Abergavenny Market Hall and the fact that we hadn’t had a chance or the time to establish a relationship with customers, we weren't able to trade between March 2020 and June 2020. But as a company director, I used that time to develop our social media presence and to build a website. Superfast Business Wales was very helpful in supporting me in that process.”

After not trading between March 2020 and June 2020, KD’s Bake House in Abergavenny shifted its business online to great success.

With Superfast Business Wales help, Lukasz set up his website, Google listing and core social media channels, enabling a business that was entirely dependent on phone orders to shift 30% of its business to online orders.

“Having a website that showed who we are as a company and that provided us with the space to showcase all of our breads, cakes and other products. It makes it easier for customers to understand what we offer.”

The move to digital arguably saved Lukasz’s business at a time when it was impossible for bricks-and-mortar businesses to open. At the same time, it has enabled him to connect with customers in a more meaningful way and to put the bakery on a solid footing for whatever the post-pandemic future holds.

“In December 2020, when many businesses had to close again, we were in a different position. We had established a good customer base and great means of digital communication via Facebook Messenger, email, and phone messages. We opened one day a week and offered 'pre-order and collect' and/or ‘delivery' services. This wouldn’t have been possible without the social media presence. As a result, between January 2021 and April 2021 over 90% of our income was generated by customers pre-ordering via the website, on Facebook and using mobile messaging.”