UK meat businesses adapting to tackle coronavirus situation

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

UK meat businesses adapting to tackle coronavirus situation

Related tags Uk Butcher coronavirus British meat processors association Processing and packaging Innovation Processing equipment & plant design

Meat businesses in the UK are shifting strategies to meet the increased demand for food as the coronavirus situation intensifies.

Processing businesses that typically supplied meat to the foodservice sector are moving into direct to consumer retailing.

Direct Meats

One of the businesses adapting to the changing situation is Essex-based supplier Direct Meats​.

When the coronavirus started having an impact in the UK, it moved quickly to ensure there was a regular supply of food available and help take pressure off the supermarkets. Traditionally it supplies to high-end restaurants around the country however it has started offering an online service with a selection of meat boxes as well as a non-meat essentials box.

Direct Meats sales director Nicola Chandler explained the move to GlobalMeatNews. “We decided to provide a delivery service to assist those who are not able to make it to the supervisor, also to help with social distancing. Even if 200-300 fewer peoples travel to the supermarket it may help make a difference in stopping the virus spreading.”

She said that the business worked fast to create a delivery option online for shoppers in selected parts of the country that may remain in place once the situation improves. “Within five days we have constructed and launched an online site as well as changes to how we package products.

“We hope to continue this service after this current situation has passed, currently we are concentrating on providing a great service.”

Chandler added that Direct Meats has “had a great response so far, mainly in London and Essex”.

East Sussex-based catering butchery business Blake’s Meats also had to revise its strategy when the coronavirus situation intensified. Its main customer base closed so it opened a direct to customer service, titled Brighton Express Meats​.

Director Greg Thatcher explained why the business had to evolve quickly. “Blake’s serves restaurants and education so lost all customers overnight so the new venture was set up purely to save the business.”

Thatcher said the new service was working well. “Within a week we’re up to about third of trade compared to where we were before.”

He said that they’ve had to adapt their production line and marketing message. “Operations have changed in respect we setup a website for online orders. Orders are between £20-£150 as opposed to £100-£3000 so lots more handling. Making it efficient is the key.

“To market the business, we used social media a lot and had some flyers delivered through people’s doors.”

British Meat Processors Association chief executive Nick Allen explained that “as people stock up and prepare to stay home, the demand for retail products from supermarkets has seen a 20-30% rise while orders from the out-of-home food service sector have had a huge drop-off”.

He said that not all businesses have the capability to adapt to this change in consumer behaviour.

“However, not all meat processing companies are able to simply divert capacity to increase supply to the supermarkets. Suppliers to the food service industry generally produce bulk packs that are often frozen. They don’t have the packaging and machinery to produce the kind of vacuum and modified atmosphere product with the requisite nutrition labelling that the retail trade requires.

“The pressure is therefore on the remaining food processing factories that are set up for this. These retail suppliers are currently working to full capacity to meet this unprecedented demand, but there are potential issues that could seriously impact their operations.”

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