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Food and Drink

Paul Hargreaves

Paul Hargreaves is a B Corp Ambassador within the UK and is one of the leading voices in the UK encouraging and inspiring businesses to make a positive impact on the world; this was the subject of his first book, Forces for Good, published in 2019. Paul’s main role is as CEO of Cotswold Fayre, a rapidly growing speciality food and drinks wholesale business supplying over 1,750 retail sites in the UK. The company diversified in June 2021 by opening Flourish Foodhall & Kitchen. Cotswold Fayre was one of the UK’s founding B Corps in 2015 and the company has recently been certified for the third time with a score in the top 5% of FMCG businesses in the UK.  Paul’s team are constantly looking for ways to be generous and compassionate by putting people and the planet before profit and as they do that, more success comes year on year. Paul believes that to bring the radical and systemic change required to reverse climate change and the growing inequality in the world a new compassionate, loving and servant-hearted leadership is required and that is what he calls The Fourth Bottom Line, and the name of his second book published in May 2021.

One business success

  • The most recent success was our diversification to retailer and restaurateur when we opened our first food hall and restaurant in June 2021 and it couldn’t have gone better (despite Covid) with revenues 30% up on projections. The reason I am particularly pleased with Flourish is that whilst putting people and the planet first has gradually evolved within the wholesale side of the business, last year was an opportunity to put in people and planet-centred values right at the beginning of a new business.  And all the good new people we have recruited have come to work for us because of this, which is what has made Flourish a great success.

Two challenges for the sector

  • The lack of a Brexit deal continues to cause us challenges both in the supply chain for our suppliers and the complete haemorrhaging of our business in the Republic of Ireland, which included two of our largest customers prior to 2021. Fortunately, most of our revenue and most of our range are British, but even our British producers rely on ingredients, labour and packaging from the EU and many of them have not been able to supply us in a timely manner.
  • Logistics costs continue to go through the roof and this is hindering the development of the chilled and frozen side of our business. There still simply aren’t enough good drivers around to facilitate our expansion and as such logistics companies are loathed to take on new business which is slowing down growth into new geographical areas and increasing the frequency of delivery to our retail customers.

Three forecasts for the sector

  • Economists expect inflation to peak in the Spring: I think we are in for a whole year of rampant inflation, particularly in the food and drink sector. I can see inflationary pressures coming down the line. To be honest food and drink need to be more expensive in order for the quality to increase but this needs to be backed up by policies that help the poor buy better food.
  • Encouragingly consumers and B2B buyers seem to be making buying decisions based on sustainability far more than they were prior to the pandemic. I expect this to ramp up more and more as the climate emergency becomes increasingly front of mind when decisions are made. Those businesses moving too slowly in this direction will struggle and may not be here in ten years’ time.
  • During the pandemic, there was a move towards independent retailers as people were in their local community far more than normal and also wanted to support their local retailers. Small become beautiful again!  From our experience as a leading supplier to independent food shops, much of this increased business has been maintained as the pandemic wanes.  I expect the growth in small retail businesses to continue as consumers feel a level of trust and connection with small businesses that large retailers can never offer.

February 2022