16 April 2020, 13:12 PM
  • As the coronavirus crisis continues, SMEs are flexing their entrepreneurial muscles to help connect small business owners with customers and provide much-needed essential products to frontline services, says Natasha Lovell Smith at Great British Food
Meet the businesses collaborating for the good of the SME ecosystem

From distilleries collaborating to produce hundreds of thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer to service providers offering free support and up-to-date advice to startups, independents are coming together and switching efforts to keep the industry alive

Jason Gibb, co-founder of Bread & Jam, starts: “I always thought that the food and drink startup community was an incredibly supportive, collaborative group, but the way we’ve reacted during the COVID-19 crisis has exceeded even my expectations.

Jason has seen a huge number of service providers offering free support and up-to-date advice to startups. “At Bread & Jam, for example, we ran a successful free daily webinar for two weeks focusing on ways to mitigate the impact of the crisis through online videos, blogs and forums like the FoodHub on Facebook,” he explains.

“We’ve seen several websites pop up that aggregate info on producers who are offering D2C deliveries, most notably Stock Up Small and the Food & Drink Festival. And we’ve seen entrepreneurial brains flexed to the max with everything from shared fulfilment facilities (like Snaffling Pig’s amazing offer to fellow brands) to clever marketing stunts like Signature Brew’s ‘Pub in a Box’ which comes complete with snacks, music quiz, beer matts, an exclusive playlist and of course delicious beer. We’ve obviously been hit extremely hard, some may not make it, but many I believe will come out stronger.”

Coming together
Fourth generation family cheesemaker Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses has brought together small artisan food and drink producers and retailers from across the North West to create The Butlers Larder – a service delivering fresh produce to doorsteps in the North West and West Yorkshire.

After a very local trial in Longridge, Goosnargh and Grimsargh, Butlers has brought together more suppliers and built an online platform so that it can reach even more households and involve even more small businesses. It’s curated selection of food and drink essentials (from cheese, milk, yoghurt and eggs to fresh bread, fruit and vegetables, tea and coffee) from artisan producers in the North West, means that people can taste the best that the region has to offer while supporting small producers at a time when they really need it.

Matthew Hall, fourth generation owner, says, “It’s a difficult time for many small businesses and we have found a way for them to continue doing what they do best, knowing that they can get their products to people in their own homes.”

“As a 4th generation family business we have great links with makers, producers and artisans across the North West. We put passion, care and innovation into everything that we do, and we want to work with partners who share our values so that together, we can reach as many homes in the North West as possible with exciting brands and delicious fresh produce,” he adds.

Producer partners include Fiddler’s Lancashire Crisps, Hawkshead Relish and Anderton’s Butchers. You can see the full list of partners here.

Switching efforts
In Wales several gin distilleries have collaborated to produce and give away more than 200,000 bottles of desperately needed hand sanitiser to frontline services, essential workers and community care providers since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Welsh Drinks Cluster, which represents Wales’ alcohol and soft drinks producers, the hundreds of thousands of products distributed to-date have been produced by just four distilleries, but this is just the start.

Currently, the organisation is working with 15 distillers across the country to help them switch production in response to the national call out for hand sanitizer. Wales’ craft gin and rum producers are set to become a vital supplier for communities across the nation and the first to receive the products free of charge have included hospitals, care homes, GP surgeries and the Royal Mail.

Dyfi Distillery, the producers of Pollination Gin, was one of the first to sign up. Danny Cameron, co-founder, explained: “Like many distilleries, our thoughts turned to producing alcohol-based hand sanitiser some weeks ago. We have the ethanol and equipment required, the World Health Organization’s approved recipes are simple, and the need for the product was more than apparent.”

“The challenges all distilleries initially met with were a combination of compliance and access to the other raw materials required. Thankfully, by collaborating with various authorities and Drinks Cluster, we were ultimately able to go into production, and distribute hand sanitiser free charge to 31 local front line organisations as a sincere thank you for every single person who is out there helping others,” he added.