The HGCA initiative aims to promote best practice in five areas identified by the Cereals Industry Forum. It is designed to show how individual companies and supply chains are facing the challenges in each of these areas. Innovation is one of the key themes and HGCA is encouraging companies to develop a better understanding of consumer and business trends to help develop their business strategy.
Video: Phoenix Fuels’ Jon Hammond charts the company’s development and growth
Phoenix Fuels provides an excellent example of this approach, benefitting the business by following current trends, as well as taking a flexible attitude towards business planning.
The company was founded from within the Nottinghamshire fresh produce consortium Sherwood Produce. Originally supplying fresh produce to multiple retailers, the company wanted to differentiate its offering and realised that green issues would become increasingly important both to retailers and consumers.
The farms in the group were already committed to environmentally-friendly farming and many were growing oilseed rape so, after two years of research, Sherwood decided to move into biodiesel production. The aim was to use the fuel in its own vehicles on farm and for distribution.
The group founded Phoenix Fuels and invested in a modern production facility that uses real time tracking and can be monitored remotely. Phoenix developed its own software for the system. The company’s biodiesel plant uses an in-line system for transesterification, rather than the traditional batch system.
Making use of by-products
Phoenix has been innovative in its use of co-products from the crushing process. It has developed the technology to produce briquettes and pellets, which can be used as a green and traceable energy source in domestic or commercial solid fuel burning appliances. A separate brand, Green Dragon Fuels, was founded to market these and they are sold through various UK retailers, farm shops, and online.
Flexibility has been a characteristic of Phoenix Fuels’ business strategy, and director Jon Hammond (left) says the company is now on its fourth version of the business plan. As market conditions have changed, and new opportunities have presented themselves, the company has adapted.
For example, Phoenix is exploring using used vegetable oil as a feedstock. For its own vehicles, it has decided to go down a slightly different route, converting them to run on pure plant oil, staying true to its original vision.
“We absolutely have to be fast on our feet as the market place moves and shifts, and the financial environment that we find ourselves in moves,” Mr Hammond says. “We need to alter our product range and our focus to fit the demands of the market at the time.”
With a growing market for rapeseed oil as an alternative to traditional oils for human consumption – such as sunflower or olive – Phoenix is also exploring this opportunity. It is providing oil to its fresh produce clients for use in food service, and is well advanced with plans to produce a branded, consumer offering to compete in retail.
“At all times the core values of buying locally and being committed to local agriculture and farmers have remained the same. Quality, provenance, sustainability and a green ethic have washed through the business from start to finish,” adds Mr Hammond.
HGCA’s Supply Chain Partnership was founded following the work which HGCA and the Food Chain Centre carried out as part of the Cereals Industry Forum. As a result of this work a number of consistent themes emerged:
- Cost and price
- Communication and collaboration
- Duplicate materials testing
- Innovation and new product development
HGCA’s Supply Chain Partnership has been founded to highlight example of best practice in all these areas. More information is available at www.hgca.com/supplychain