Worcestershire Food & Drink members face COVID challenges to County Food Businesses

Members of Worcestershire Food & Drink(WF&D) are tackling the Covid 19 outbreak head on, by diversifying services to customers and working in partnership with other members to feed the county.

The community interest company, which currently has around 100 members, champions the region’s excellent independent food and drink businesses locally, nationally and internationally, and offers promotional support, worthwhile networking and access to professional expertise.

Current lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures have resulted in the closure of business premises and the cancellation of shows and markets for the foreseeable future.

WF&D members have responded to the challenge by putting in place pop-up shops, free delivery services and price reductions, multiple-buy discounts and contactless, kerbside collection in an attempt to get produce to customers during the crisis.

Feli’s Bar & Restaurant at Stoulton, is one such example.

Owners Felice and Fiorinda Tocchini are offering authentic Italian take-out meals and community food boxes, and have turned over the restaurant, bar and kitchen demonstration area to the new Feli’s Shop, selling pasta, dried yeast, oats, eggs, cheese, butter and ready-made meals and sauces.

They are offering online ordering and contactless collection.

They are also acting in solidarity as a stockist for other WF&D members, selling cheese for The Truckle Cheese Company (Evesham) and Croome Cuisine (Worcester), bread for Le Delice (Malvern), chutneys and dressings for Kit’s Kitchen (Worcester) and jams for Bow Brook (Drake’s Broughton), as part of a joint effort to ensure business survival for everyone moving forward.

Other member partnerships include The Cosy Chocolate Company (Bishampton) working with fellow members Wychbold Fudge (Wychbold) and Emily’s Jams & Pickles (Worcester) to offer a ‘comfort box’ of treats delivered to the door, and Macneil’s Smokehouse (Droitwich), which is including Ruby’s Fudge (Cotheridge) in its online shop range.

WF&D Chairman, Nick Hodgetts of Croome Cuisine, has had to close his farm to the public and is now concentrating on supplying cheese to stockists allowed to remain open, and promoting the company’s online shop. He’s offering a 20% discount to his retail customers through April and May to support those who now have 20% less income.

Nick said: “Like all businesses up and down the country, our members are beginning to feel the real impact of the Coronavirus outbreak and the unprecedented challenges it brings. These are tough times for everyone, but the safety of customers and our own families is paramount.

Croome Cuisine attends some 200 shows each year, so for us, and many others, the cancellation of events effectively wipes out a steady stream of annual income, and the chance to connect face-to-face with those who regularly buy our products.

The Worcestershire Food & Drink community is resilient and flexible, as it is clearly demonstrating, with its ingenious methods for continued trading. I encourage all our members to stay strong and work together during these uncertain times.”

Commercial strategies aside, some WF&D members are also doing their bit to help the community with donations, discounts for key workers and free services for the elderly and the vulnerable.

Just recently, WF&D Board members, Adrian Nichols of The Truckle Cheese Company and chef Felice Tocchini, put together 40 main meals for the homeless as part of a project with Worcester Street Café, and will making another 50 for tomorrow – April 16th.

The Truckle Cheese Company is also offering discounts for frontline NHS workers and donating cheese to NHS Trust hospitals and community hospitals around the country. Locally, it is donating to county care homes, food banks and meals on wheels services for the elderly and the vulnerable.

Croome Cuisine also donated 100 truckles of cheese to the Worcestershire Homeless Appeal Street Kitchen, and Celtic Marches Beverages is donating 5% of all Shopify sales to the NHS Covid 19 Urgent Appeal.

For more information about Worcestershire Food and Drink, visit the website here.