Food wholesaler Harvest Fine Foods adapts business
Thursday May 28th, 2020
Business is challenging at the best of times, but never more so than in the current Covid-19 lock-down. But with challenge comes opportunity and one Hampshire business has taken it upon themselves to re-invent themselves overnight.
Harvest Fine Foods Ltd was established in 1985 by the father of Managing Director, Richard Strongman. They are wholesalers who supply to a wide range of sectors, including retail and hospitality.
Richard said: “When I joined the business back in June 2000 we were operating out of the back of my father’s convenience store in Southbourne, Bournemouth. Back then we had four employees along with four family members and turned-over about £500k per annum”.
Since 2000 the business has grown significantly and relocated to new premises in Totton, Southampton in 2016.
Richard continues: “We now employ 145 people; pre-Covid we were on course to achieve sales of £23.5M in 2020. Primarily, we are wholesalers supplying a wide range of fresh produce, dairy, fresh meat, dry stores and alcohol to the catering and hospitality sector, as well as schools, hospitals and care homes. With the announced lock-down on 20th March 2020 we lost nearly 85% of our trade overnight.
“While many of the hotels, pubs and restaurants we supply had to close, we still needed to stay open to supply our care homes, hospitals and the schools which had remained open to look after the children of front-line key workers.
“However, it was very clear that these sales would not be sufficient to keep us afloat but we were determined to survive and did not want to make any of our staff redundant.”
“We took the decision to open our doors to the public by offering a home delivery service. We could see the problems supermarkets were having both in store and with their own home delivery services. People were also struggling to get hold of certain essential supplies – supplies we had plenty of in our stores. Then there were the many vulnerable people who were self-isolating and didn’t dare go out for their shopping. So the decision to remodel the business made perfect sense we launched our home delivery service on 25 March 2020.
Richard continues: “The response was utterly overwhelming. To be perfectly honest our e-commerce was not really set-up for retail consumers. We were receiving over 500 registrations per day, which we were having to set up manually. It was all hands to the pumps and we were working through the night to keep up with demand.”
Harvest has subsequently automated a lot of these processes and are continually investing in IT and e-commerce to give customers a better user experience.
Strongman proudly recalls: “Our staff were amazing and responded incredibly positively to the crisis. They understood the desperate situation we were facing and did anything and everything they could to help us work through it. We took the view that we needed to have a completely open dialogue and that no idea was too silly to be considered.”
The company pivoted very quickly by adding new products such as fresh meat boxes, veg boxes, alcohol, pet food, personal care and hygiene items and even bags of compost. Currently they have over 12,000 home delivery customers registered but still have capacity to take on more.
Strongman remarks: “We are really looking forward to resuming our normal trade and getting back to trading with our wholesale customers. Typically our vans finish their deliveries to wholesale customers by lunchtime every day and sit idle until we start loading them again at 0300 the following morning. We have received rave reviews from many of new customers eager for the service to continue and lots of comments about the quality of the products so our intention is to continue the home delivery service after the lock-down is released.”
If you would like to sign up, or find out more about the home delivery service, please head to their website.