The Yorkshire-based business had lost an estimated 75% of its traditional business almost overnight when hotels, restaurants and airports, all key customers for the manufacturer, closed their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Managing director Ian Cundell had expected to have to place 35 members of staff on the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme, also known as furloughing, until the business won contracts to supply sausages to 220 Asda stores and nearly 100 Tesco stores across the Midlands and Yorkshire.
“I’m really proud of the initiative we’ve shown and the way the staff and our suppliers have responded,” said Cundell. “It’s testimony to the people we have working for us that we’ve been able to do this and, most importantly, it’s saved jobs and saved the business.”
Prior to the lockdown, the firm made two million sausages a month, plus a million meatballs, burgers and Chorizo sausages.
“When the Prime Minister made the announcement that all the hotels and restaurants should close, that got rid of 50% of our sales. When the airports shut down as well, that accounted for a further 25%,” he said. “I was preparing for this to happen but I didn’t really want to believe it. I thought we were going to have to furlough at least half of the staff and I didn’t know whether we’d survive as a business. I was quietly panicking.”
The firm retained some sales by continuing to supply care homes and online retailers but panic-buying had left the supermarkets crying out for supplies.
“We contacted Asda a week before the lockdown. Usually, being listed by a supermarket takes time but we had supplied them in the past so, within a week, we were accepted by them. We are now supplying our Yorkshire Cuisine Premium Pork Sausage and our British Premium Sausage Company Cumberland Sausage,” explained Cundell.
He said it was a similar situation for Tesco. “We dropped an email to Dave Lewis, the CEO, saying we had spare capacity. The result is that our Yorkshire Cuisine Premium Sausages can now be found in 93 stores across Yorkshire,” he said.
The British Premium Sausage Company has seen its own retail online sales increase by 400% and sales from other online butchers and meal-kit providers have also helped, as have exports.
Cundell warned that the overall recovery from the coronavirus will take some time.
“In some ways, the British Premium Sausage Company may be in a stronger position than before all of this happened. We’ve opened a door into the supermarkets that we wouldn’t have got into before but, having said that, I think the economic recovery from this, nationwide, will be very slow,” he added.