New services emerge to connect food industry with customers during COVID-19

27 April 2020, 09:31 AM
  • These new launches aim to support small businesses and producers during the crisis and beyond

Businesses across the fine food and drinks sector have been showing true grit during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic as they adapt to an ever-changing situation. Independent retailers have set up delivery services overnight, food brands are finding alternative sales channels, and companies are expanding their product ranges to help meet customer demand.

But some companies are going further by setting up entirely new services in an effort to diversify revenue streams and cater to gaps in the market in an effort to service their local community and keep artisanal producers and independent businesses afloat.

Farms to Feed Us
Eager to support the nation’s plethora of small farms whilst addressing concerns over food shortages, a new online database has been set up to connect growers, producers and fishers with their local communities. Farms to Feed Us allows shoppers to access fresh produce that’s grown near them on a small and sustainable scale.

The volunteer-run resource was founded by regenerative agriculture organiser Cathy St Germans, and already comprises a list of over 200 businesses from the UK’s food and farming network.

Aside from aiming to alleviate some of the impact caused by COVID-19, the platform hopes to strengthen the country’s food system and establish a sustainable supply chain for the future.

“Farms to Feed Us was born in response to initiatives I was seeing locally and nationally from farmers having to turn their supply chains around overnight,” Cathy explained. “I have put together a small team of volunteers to create a database of new delivery and mail order initiatives, which have come about because of the crisis.

“The database is lo-fi and easily accessible by the elderly and those who don’t use social media, so we can all play our part in strengthening the food chain, which is flowing from our fields and farms, and support our farmers and fishers through this terrible time. We are hoping this supply chain can have some lasting effect once the COVID-19 crisis is over, and we will have a new market who we hope will want to maintain their new relationships with small-scale farmers, fishers and other independent food suppliers.”

Your Local Delivered
Helping to connect local, independent restaurants and food outlets with people who are stuck at home, Your Local Delivered has been launched to support businesses that were forced to close their doors following lockdown. The free-to-use online community – which is free to use and free to list your business on – features pubs, restaurants, grocers and more across the UK that are able to deliver to homes in their local towns and villages.

Speaking about the new platform, founder Charlotte Spencer said: “My brother’s lovely country pub (The Hopbine, Petteridge) was included in the list of businesses that were forced to close. So needless to say, it felt pretty close to home. Like him and many local independents businesses, they’ve now turned to deliveries as a means of surviving this crisis that we’re all facing. Having worked in the hospitality industry for some years, I wanted to do my bit to help, and I hope Your Local Delivered will do just that.”

In an effort to support smaller producers, a new online marketplace has been set up to connect shops and food suppliers with their local communities. By joining Foodens, a variety of businesses – including farm shops, butchers, patisseries, fruit and veg wholesalers, ready-meal companies and restaurants – can all list food boxes for sale that can be collected or delivered across the country in a zero-contact manner.

The new non-profit was launched by Somerset-based couple Rob and Anna Kerry, who had wanted to set up an online marketplace for some time, but were spurred on by the current situation: “We started Foodens as a way for people to receive a reliable source of food, without queuing at supermarkets and whilst also supporting independent local businesses,” Rob and Anna said. “We want to keep local food suppliers afloat through COVID-19, whilst also stopping the panic buying and mass gatherings at supermarkets.”

Rob added, “People get into a habit of shopping in major supermarkets, and that habit is hard to break. It’s only now that people are realising how fragile our food infrastructure is. We are reliant on just a few brands like Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, leading to huge queues and greater demand than can be supplied. At the same time, our local butchers and greengrocers are empty of people and full of the food those people want and need at this time.

“We know that this service is needed now and hope that Foodens will live on as a key source of food and supplies for years to come. Even if just a fraction of people’s weekly shop went through Foodens, it would make a sizeable difference to local food suppliers, who would otherwise miss out on this much needed revenue.”

Retailers can join and list their products for free, however there is a 10% transaction fee on orders taken, to help cover card payment fees and operational costs.

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