The value of collaboration for small businesses

03 September 2021, 12:53 PM
  • For challenger brands, it's more important than ever to work together, says Andy Lawson, founder of BoroughBox
The value of collaboration for small businesses

My personal experience of working in the food and drink industry is that it’s an area where brands and producers, particularly SMEs, are more open to collaboration and supporting each other than any other I’ve experienced. Recent events have made it more important than ever for challenger brands to work together in attempts to make the best of any situation. 

At BoroughBox, we work with hundreds of SMEs of all shapes and sizes, and it’s been heartening to see many of these producers working together to support each other and those in need in the 18 months since Covid hit. 

We’ve seen countless examples of producers uniting to help get their products to those that need, or deserve it. We were fortunate to also be able to play our part in this. Realising that we had stock that we could no longer sell due to the closure of hospitality, we reached out to producers who store products in our warehouse, asking if anyone had stock they’d like to donate. 

We saw overwhelming generosity, with a number of brands putting stock forward – much of it they could have easily sold through their booming online channels. We were eventually able to arrange for five pallets of incredible food and drink to be donated to NHS charities during the first lockdown, which made us extremely proud. 

Many brands have also worked together to not just benefit those in need but also help reach new audiences. A great example of this is snack brand Olly’s who led a collaboration with several different brands to create a mixed snack box that lucky customers could send to a loved one, who they couldn’t visit, for free. 

Each producer involved knew that they were not just doing good by donating stock to someone in need but at the same time were able to introduce their products to a brand new audience who they otherwise may have been unable to reach. 

Cross-promotional giveaways have also been common, with producers teaming up with like-minded brands to create and promote giveaways and competitions to each other’s audiences on social media. Collaborations like this present fantastic opportunities for smaller brands to help one another and make marketing spend go further. 

Craft beer has been an area where we’ve seen countless collaborations over the years, with breweries bringing their expertise together to create new drinks and interesting concoctions as well as working with other producers to create new, exciting flavours. 

You probably saw coverage of the Brewdog x Tony’s Chocolonely raspberry and white chocolate IPA, but smaller brands have got in on the act as well. Leeds-based brewery Northern Monk teamed with Seabrook Crisps to create some crisp-flavoured beers to celebrate the recent opening of beer gardens. 

As the world slowly returns to normal, or whatever the ‘new normal’ might be, I’m looking forward to seeing more collaborations between challenger brands as they support each other to maximise their limited marketing budgets. 

The larger brands have a much easier time hitting the headlines and getting eyes on their products, so the challengers in food and drink need to explore more innovative ways to work together to take on the big boys. I for one can’t wait to sample a crisp-flavoured beer on my next trip to a beer garden!

more like this
Speciality Food Daily Briefing

Stay connected and receive the latest news, analysis and insights from our industry's top commentators