One of Gloucestershire’s fastest growing businesses has launched its first click and collect service to the general public.
This is the first time that Cheltenham-based Creed Foodservice has sold to the end consumer. And while it comes as a response to the current Coronavirus crisis, following the closure of a large proportion of Creed’s regular customers such as schools and other education organisations, food and leisure outlets, it is a strategy the company had already been considering in the longer term.
It’s not the challenges that life throws at you, but how you deal with them that counts. In just one week, this £85 million turnover company, which has grown to become one of the UK’s leading independent foodservice wholesalers, built a business-to-consumer facility by launching a new website, and changing their setup within their depots (in Cheltenham, High Wycombe and Ilkeston in Derbyshire), to repackage catering-size packs into suitable sizes for the general public.
Head of Marketing, Victoria Mitchell, explained: “As the Coronavirus spread, and the government was talking about lockdown, we knew the closures were coming. Then the independent schools shut early, so it wasn’t a total shock, and we had already begun to plan. However, we are still looking after homes in the care sector and it’s more important than ever that we continued to serve the elderly and vulnerable.”
But with Creed’s warehouses full of catering packs of food, which could no longer be delivered to schools, cafes and restaurants, a long-term strategy to open to the public, an idea which the company already had on the backburner, suddenly became a necessity.
“Fortunately we’d been working with Richard Fletcher of Foodservice Online, an expert on e-commerce for food wholesalers, so we were not starting from scratch,” said Victoria.
Richard had been working with Creed to support food service companies with e-commerce, and the company had launched its B2B site five months ago, which is currently being rolled out to key national customers.
“We are able to repackage a lot of staple foods such as chopped tomatoes, baked beans and milk,” said Victoria. “Other products are more difficult, such as bread which we can’t spilt and sell on because the packaging won’t have all the require information on, such as allergens,” she added.
However, a range of products including fruit and vegetables, meat, pasta and household items are available on the website.
Members of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, who provide food and drink to both public and private sector businesses, have seen a 70 per cent decline in trade since the prime minister issued advice to avoid pubs, restaurants and other social venues.
Creed has worked hard and fast to ensure that the food in its warehouses goes out into the community, where it’s needed most.
The company has spent no money on advertising and has got the word out very successfully across its social media platforms. It is using the local knowledge of its sales teams who have shared the news on their local community news groups.
“Our staff have been fantastic in adapting to the new way of working,” said Victoria. “Many of them have worked for Creed for a very long time. It’s been a full team effort to repackage, pick, pack and get the goods ready for the customers when they arrive.”
The most difficult thing, says Victoria, has been getting the product range right, and she admits that they’re not there yet – not really surprising after just one week in which Creed has had to do an almost 180 degree turn in its strategy.
While Creed, like every other UK food wholesaler, will have lost sales, the company, a long-standing family business, is servicing an important community need which will last for months.
Victoria added: “Creed has a strong reputation for helping the communities in which it operates, and the most important thing is that food and household products get to where they are needed most.”