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Cornish food businesses diversify to survive, and thrive

Published March 29th, 2021


Huge disruption to the hospitality industry over the last year has forced food suppliers to innovate and adapt to survive.

Three Cornish wholesale businesses have found new markets by selling direct to consumers, diversifying through new online platforms.

Marc Dennis, owner of award-winning Duchy Charcuterie, had his revenue stream completely cut off when hospitality was forced to close in the first lockdown last year. He had a website built in just three days, and has since delivered around 2,000 parcels to customers across the UK and northern Europe.

Marc said: “My core business was working with chefs to create bespoke charcuterie offerings for pubs and restaurants. With these closed, and charcuterie not a priority for takeaway menus, I was left with just a small number of orders, mainly from pizza restaurants.

“I’d done a few postal orders to friends and family previously, but nothing on a large scale. Once my website was live, I took 22 orders over the first weekend without even announcing it. I then launched on Instagram and took 110 orders in the first week. My busiest period was four days in the run up to Christmas, when I hand-packed 296 orders for delivery.”

After initially using his local post office to send deliveries, Marc soon realised this wasn’t the most efficient way of sending out the ever increasing number of parcels, so began using APC thanks to the support of a personal connection at the local depot in Redruth.

With increased demand for his products, Marc received support from the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Growth Hub to help secure grant funding to expand his small production unit.

Chris Godolphin, business connector at the Growth Hub, said: “Our role is to connect businesses with the right support to help them achieve their targets, and it’s great to see companies like Duchy Charcuterie thriving from this. We pointed Marc in the direction of grant funding so he could purchase additional equipment, which has allowed him to store more produce to be able to keep up with his orders.”

Cornish cheese specialist Thomas Hanson, of Hanson Fine Foods, found himself in a similar position last March. He had been building up stock to deliver to restaurants for Mother’s Day and Easter when lockdown struck. With a cold store full of cheese, he began selling it from his van in car parks across Cornwall.

A Facebook post offering ‘lucky dip’ bags of cheese with delivery anywhere in Cornwall saw sales jump, receiving between 30 and 40 orders a day. Word of mouth soon meant Thomas did fortnightly runs to Devon hospitals to deliver to key workers who were unable to get to the shops. Then press coverage in a national news article on Good Friday led to 120 orders.

Thomas Hanson said: “Everything went mad for a couple of weeks. Things are more steady now with regular customers buying cheese and gift boxes through our website which I personally deliver across the county, and we have also been supplying food box companies – all of which I will be continuing alongside my deliveries to hospitality businesses when they open up again.”

For West Country Premium Venison, increasing its engagement with the private market wasn’t just about survival, but it also provided an opportunity to educate a whole new demographic of consumers about the high quality and health benefits of their product.

Director Matt Smith said: “The Growth Hub has helped us develop our sales and marketing strategy. We have increased our online presence, introducing new products and gift ideas to our online shop with recipe suggestions, and have recently recruited a marketing graduate to help us communicate to new markets.

“We supply venison to some of the most highly respected chefs in the country who appreciate the consistency and flavour we deliver through our farming techniques, and need little introduction into how the meat is best served.

“Learning how to reach private consumers has been a real learning curve for me, and has helped us to identify our target market as those who are more health conscious and environmentally aware.”

The move online has helped many businesses like these keep afloat in the last year. With hospitality reopening over the next few months, there is a level of optimism around the opportunity for growth through sustaining both wholesale and direct to consumer sales.

The Growth Hub can provide guidance on taking businesses to the next level. For more information or to book a free business review visit ciosgrowthhub.com or call 01209 708660.

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