Anthony Climpson of Go New Forest facilitated this NFBP breakfast in the charming surroundings of Hockeys Farm, Gorley. The event debated possible solutions to the barriers in growing the commercial benefits of locally produced New Forest goods, and specifically the issues surrounding supply and demand, without undermining local distinctiveness and authenticity.
Jonny Burrell of Hockeys Farm shared his experience of turning round a run-down business over the last four years by utilising the idea of coopetition and linking with many local suppliers. Diversification also played a big role in creating the all-round leisure experience that Hockeys is today based around authentic high quality local producers. A key issue in doing this is using over 38 local producers and the demands that places on the limited administrative resources and processing of invoices. A solution to this problem would be to consolidate the process – one ordering system, one website and one delivery system.
Appetite for Adventure
Adie Callaghan of Appetite for Adventure then summarised the development of her small lifestyle business over the last 9 years which has seen an 8-fold growth since 2015. A key challenge during this growth period has been scalability and dealing with both large and small scale events with consistent local supply. Diversification into hampers has been a huge success, and Adie now uses over 30 local producers with demand now moving into the corporate market. The key challenge is getting consumers to understand the true value of local produce, so her aims are to demonstrate high levels of service, quality of food and support for local producers.
Harvest Fine Foods
Richard Strongman of Harvest Fine Foods then discussed the pros and cons of engaging small lifestyle suppliers who form the bulk of local producers with his need to run a commercially viable distribution network covering a 70 mile radius from the new base in Totton. He has over 30 distribution vehicles delivering 32 tonnes of produce daily, however, Richard’s vehicles have capacity from midday which is an opportunity for the right solution. Harvest work with New Forest Marque and Hampshire Fayre members, however the use of key local products means they often reach saturation point quite quickly and therefore hospitality businesses will always need a large range of different brands from which to source regularly to maintain differentiation.
Many successful local producers sell more of their goods outside of the local area than within. There is also the problem of contracted suppliers undercutting the distributor’s price points by selling direct. Many producers are also diverted from improving production by having to sell and distribute direct. Consolidation is the goal and to achieve this we will need to think beyond the boundaries of the New Forest and work with our neighbouring counties.
The debate which followed identified a number of other issues such as buyers lack of knowledge of own inventory and late ordering and the challenges of trying to work with both small lifestyle businesses and larger commercial entities. Many smaller businesses also lacked the basic business skills outside of their own specific passion such as business administration, management and marketing. There were big opportunities offered by the tourism marketplace with millions of visitors potentially capable of taking the New Forest experience home with them in the form of local produce and crafts.
It was agreed that if we were to solve these issues a new connected relationship was required between producers, organisations such as the New Forest Marque and Hampshire Fayre, the hospitality industry represented by Go New Forest, retailers and distributors such as Harvest Fine Foods.
Solutions need to focus on creating a core service for producers and suppliers, provide an effective digital connection point linked to a sustainable distribution system centred on the New forest but which would have to work across a larger geographical area to be commercially viable. It was clear that to be successful any such core service would require producers to know the cost of participation in advance and that the distribution system transparently preserved the margin of the producer businesses. To demonstrate the benefits of any agreed solution we would need a minimum of 3-4 pilot businesses to demonstrate the effectiveness of the new system. It was also important to concentrate on the basics such as audience focus and not trying to do too much in taking the first steps of what will be a long term project.
It was agreed to progress the development of a connected and collective approach to solving the issues identified above by Go New Forest’s Food & Drink Group working with the Marque, Hampshire Fayre and the Dorset & Isle of Wight equivalents. It was also agreed that whilst contracts were important, fundamentally trust and coopetition was required if we are to move away from the current duplicative and disjointed situation.