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Foodari: How our Wholesaler has adapted during Lockdown

Foodari are one of the many wholesalers we supply edible flowers and fresh produce to. Based in Kent, Foodari work with growers to deliver the freshest produce to hotels and restaurants, schools and universities, and their most recent venture, home deliveries.

We spoke with Amy Archer from Foodari to chat about how they’re adapting to the new normal, and how lockdown affected the business. Check out her responses below.

  • Lockdown was such a shock for everyone. What was Foodari’s initial response?

The dreadful Coronovirus crisis affected many people in many ways, and we were no exception. The hospitality sector was particularly hard hit, and we were devastated to see the impact on our partners throughout the supply chain. We saw 80% of our sales disappear, we had a chilled warehouse full of perishable fresh produce and no customers to sell it to, something had to be done quickly; we weren’t about to see our business fall over that we have all worked so hard to build! So, we launched a retail home delivery service – almost overnight on 23rd March.

This allowed us to continue our commitment to sustainable food supply and continue to champion our great Kentish farmers. Everyone needed to eat, the supermarkets were unable to react, and our talented team built a home delivery service to sell our lovely local produce literally overnight. We’ve always looked after our supply chain but we were pleased and prouder than ever to be able to support them at such a tough time. Without the help of Foodari Home Delivery, many of our growers would have seen a dramatic increase in wastage of their lovingly nurtured produce, and the furloughing or redundancies of their staff.

  • What have you learnt as a company during the pandemic?

We have learnt that by adapting and diversifying we have not only been able to just ‘keep our heads above water’ but we have also created new business streams for the medium and potentially long term. We were already investing in the strategic development of our business, but the pandemic proved to be an accelerator to this work. Another key learning and behaviour for us was allowing ourselves to try new products and ranges but in an informed way – we asked our customers what they wanted and delivered on that. The third lesson for us was the importance of updating and involving the whole team and pushing for all to champion change. Everyone has a part to play, and we’ve had ideas and support from all our different departments.

  • How has Foodari adapted to the new normal? – Have you changed your product list?

We launched Foodari Home Delivery in March and now deliver to thousands of homes across Kent. We started with a simple offer that prioritised local, fresh, quality produce and good value, and ensured prompt and reliable deliveries from friendly and considerate drivers. Working with other Kent businesses, and listening to our new retail customers has seen this evolve into a wider range of boxes and products including pizzas, picnics, tapas, Kentish fine wine and beers, plus store cupboard essentials, and we have launched our Christmas collection to include Turkey and special festive vegetable boxes. We’re able to offer something for everyone whether it’s just the essentials or something really special.

  • What has been the biggest challenge for you adapting to the new normal?

Less predictability – changing guidance and uncertainty for key sectors (such as schools and pubs). But, this has made us even more agile – which has to be a good thing. Like many others, we’ve also had to adapt to less busy offices (we’re a social bunch!) and more online meetings – but seeing everyone’s pets and bookshelves has been quite good fun too!

  • What good has come out of lockdown for you as a company?

It means that we’re living up to our mission to go the extra mile – and we couldn’t be more grateful to our Kent customers, farmers, and suppliers for their support.

We haven’t stopped innovating. We’ve trialled new products and ranges, built a new website, created special offers and subscription benefits, introduced new tech to support routing and next day delivery – to name a few.  And we’ve been so inspired by the support we’ve had, that we’re making sure we’re giving back too. We launched our Christmas Collection in partnership with Kent’s biggest charity Porchlight – so our mission to go the extra mile in bringing good, fresh food to everyone in our local Kent communities means we can also help serve and support those who need it most.

  • Do you have any tips for other wholesalers adjusting to the new normal?

There’s no way we’d suggest that the pandemic has been positive – it’s been a very tough time for businesses, individuals and families. But facing into the need to change and adapt, being forced to do things differently and embracing that as an opportunity is good not just for business but for morale too. Also, getting serious about local – it’s a value that’s bandied around by many but digging into what that really means, at its best, is priceless. This includes local people and communities, local businesses, producers and farmers, local employees (all our staff live in Kent), and local charitable causes.

  • What was your most popular product during lockdown?

We genuinely listened and represented what our local customers wanted from us, and that was undoubtedly the best produce that Kent can offer. Despite the challenging and difficult times, we supported a fantastic season for asparagus and berries – truly stand out products, and bought in significant quantities by our customers. We’ve also delivered tonnes of local apples and pears, supplied sensational salad leaves from Kentish farms, and are also able offer dry goods from local Kentish companies. We are really looking forward to the Autumn and Winter season when brassicas and squashes really come into their own.

  • What’s to come in the future for Foodari?

Foodari Home Delivery is continuing to grow, adding new products and ranges every week. We aim to continue this shopping experience across Kent – and hopefully beyond in time! Also, we’re devoted to helping our wholesale customers and partners across the hospitality and education sectors as they reopen and rebuild. We know there’s still uncertainty, but we are working together to find real solutions to new challenges, to support the recovery of the sector and wider economy.

  • Last question, we couldn’t resist… If you had to pick one favourite Nurtured Product, what would it be?

For me personally, it has got to be the edible flowers. They are so versatile and can brighten up any dish or drink. A little bit of edible sunshine!

 

If you’re living in the Kent area and want in on the action of a Foodari home delivery, you can head to their website here.

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