FOOD and drink businesses have stepped up to the plate and met a surge in demand for fresh produce during lockdown.
Taste North East Wales praised local food, drink and hospitality firms for diversifying and changing business models to better serve their communities since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.
From home deliveries to online platforms, stocking new lines and dramatic increases in production, they have supported customers who needed it most, including the vulnerable and elderly in towns and rural areas.
Among the outlets to have continued trading throughout the past few months is Porters Delicatessen in Llangollen, whose owner Tracey Hughes said demand for their products helped the business stave off the threat of COVID-19.
“Lockdown would have potentially devasted our business, but we quickly adapted when it became apparent from customers in self-isolation they would still be enjoying their favourite foods, especially cheese,” said Tracey.
“We have always offered a free home delivery service within a local radius but were able to greatly expand this with the help of our local greengrocer, Dee Valley Fruit and Veg.
“Working together we covered a much greater area and supplied many more of our customers. When people became aware that they could telephone an order and get it delivered the next day the service really took off and is still being used now.”
She added: “Whilst we were never closed to customers, now things are a lot busier we are controlling numbers in the shop and have installed screens and a hand sanitiser station to help keep everyone safe.”
Another to have seen a huge rise in sales is Swans Farm Shop in Treuddyn, near Mold.
Gail Swan runs it with butcher husband Clive, assistant butcher and son, Edward, and daughter Becca, who is also a midwife.
“We have a farm and the farm shop so when the shop is busier it means the farm is busier, but the priority has always been safety,” said Gail.
“Barely a day has gone by where we have not introduced something new, which has been challenging but also rewarding as we have been able to support more local producers.
“We have stepped up production of our own items and businesses locally have done the same; the product range of everyday essentials we now have is incredible because people have been coming in and asking for things we didn’t previously stock.
“We’ve been living and breathing the business but are just glad to have been of service to our community during what has undoubtedly been the most hectic period in the 17 years since we opened.”
The second annual Blasu/Taste North East Wales is taking place virtually this year after organisers Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, with the support of Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire, decided to host an online celebration to ensure the health and safety of participants.
This will include of a series of short films featuring local food and drink businesses, to be followed by virtual events in the Autumn.
The project is funded by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, via the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government
Robyn Lovelock, Taste Project Coordinator and Secretary of Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, praised businesses for the innovative and immediate ways in which they met the uncertainty of the pandemic head-on.
“This was completely unchartered territory for all of them, yet they stepped up when their communities – especially people shielding in rural areas – were in lockdown at home and unable to get out to the shops or access supermarket deliveries,” she said.
“Like never before we have seen the best of the food and drink industry in this region over the past few months. It makes us proud to be able to showcase the huge efforts local businesses have made.”
Her key message to customers now is to keep shopping locally.
“We’ve all appreciated how local businesses went above and beyond during the crisis. The biggest thank you to them is to maintain that support as lockdown eases – to plan which items you want to buy locally and make a plan on when you’ll do that each week,” added Robyn.
For more on Taste North East Wales, follow them on social media @taste_blasu or email [email protected] Alternatively, visit the website: www.tastenortheastwales.org.
For more information on Cadwyn Clwyd, email [email protected], call 01490 340500 or visit the website: www.cadwynclwyd.co.uk.