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William Burgess is Chairman of Burgess Farms/Produce World Group. As a group, Burgess Farms grows and supplies a wide range of fresh produce including alliums (onions, leeks, garlic, shallots), roots (carrots, parsnips, beetroot, turnips, artichokes) and a variety of potatoes. They also have a thriving organic division. Their sites range across Scotland and the East of England, whilst their customers include most of the high street retailers.
One business success
- We have been lucky as we have seen very strong demand for our products through covid. Our team members have been stars in dealing with this demand. The demand during the first few weeks of lockdown was bigger than Christmas and lasted longer, we didn’t let down any of our customers.
Two challenges for the sector
- As we hopefully emerge from the pandemic, one of the challenges we will face is returning to ‘normality’. Since March we have all altered the way in which we work and whilst this was forced upon us, we are now in new routines. Some of the new processes and work methods will remain, others will revert to what they were. It’s important that as a business we remain flexible to adapt to these changes.
- The food sector will continue to face challenges in reducing costs. During the initial stages of the pandemic, the focus was on supply, but there is no doubt that cost has remained one of the key factors in consumer purchasing decisions. The pressure from retailers in a competitive market will inevitably be fed back to producers such as ourselves, and we need to continue to work at our costs to remain competitive.
Three forecasts for the sector
- The pandemic ‘forced the hand’ of many consumers to online shopping and retailers quickly ‘upped’ their online game. Some of those who migrated online will move back to physical shopping and some will never return. The whole supply chain needs to appreciate this when looking at products, packaging and processes.
- With more people ‘scratch cooking’ there has been a resurgence in the appreciation of the health benefits of fresh food. Whether it’s home cooking or the growing meal kit market, people will continue to cook and eat at home, which is good news for fresh produce.
- As and when we get back to normal, we are likely to see a massive upsurge in events and weddings, which will all be good news for the sector and in particular food service. Whilst I don’t think we’ll get back to pre-covid levels for two to three years, the sector needs to be prepared for the inevitable increase and how they deliver their service.