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Bath Soft Cheese Co. lost more than 50% of its business when the coronavirus crisis forced restaurants and cafes to close, leaving it with an uncertain future. Alongside a drop in orders, the company had to close its brand new cafe at its home in Kelston, near Bath, too but also had to make sure work on the farm continued.
To try to survive the unprecedented challenges it faced, the company pivoted, launching a simple home delivery cheese selection as well as creating a grocery home delivery scheme for its village and the nearby rural area and selling essentials from its shop.
But managing director Hugh Padfield said while they have enjoyed success with their new online offering they still need people’s support, especially with no certain date for when restaurants and gastro-pubs may start trading again. With lockdown restrictions easing and people able to go out more, they are already seeing a decline in online orders and he urged consumers not to forget about them and fellow artisan producers.
“It’s been a hugely uncertain time,” said Hugh. “The support we’ve had for our online shop has been amazing and it’s opened up a whole new way of doing business for us. Having a cheese box selection delivered to your home, with free next day delivery, has proved hugely popular. But we would urge people to carry on supporting us and other artisan cheesemakers - this crisis is far from over and we still need your support if we’re going to get through this.”
He said the switch to online selling, which has seen them create a simple home delivery cheese selection with free next day delivery for the whole of the UK and slash the minimum online order to £20 for free next day delivery to anywhere in the UK, had actually created a closer link with customers. “People who are buying online aren’t just popping in and grabbing a block of cheese, or being served it in a restaurant then forgetting what it is. They’re reading about our organic farm and history, looking at our YouTube channel, following us on social media and sending us messages of support.”
As well as selling cheese online, Bath Soft Cheese Co. created a grocery home delivery scheme from scratch for its village and the next six nearest villages and has kept its shop open to sell essentials including milk from its vending machine, eggs, butter, bread and cheese. They are also planning to offer evening meal takeaways.
At the start of the crisis Hugh said the farm - faced with the prospect of wasting cheese that had nowhere to go - donated it to causes including local NHS workers. He also paid tribute to initiatives like the British Cheese Weekender, which urged the public to support the artisan cheese industry as a whole, for helping raise awareness.
Work is still underway at Park Farm and he has also managed to keep most staff on, only furloughing some shop/cafe staff. “Cows still need to be milked twice a day and the cheese affinage has to be done if it’s not to ruin. However, we have split the teams into two that work on different days of the week with no overlap. We have also carried out extensive work and documentation on safe operating practice - ensuring the team can continue to work as safely as possible.”
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