Food service ‘offers plenty of opportunities’

There are plenty of opportunities for pig and poultry producers of any size to supply the food service sector, if they are prepared to “get out there and grab it”.

Addressing a food service workshop at the British Pig and Poultry Fair, Tony Goodger of BPEX explained that increasing numbers of farm shops were opening up cafes and restaurants needing local food suppliers.

“Over half a billion pounds a year are spent in garden centre restaurants,” he added, while the National Trust only wanted local food from local suppliers in its food outlets.

“There is an abundance of opportunities in this market that you can access quite easily.”

William Buchannan (pictured) of Gressingham Foods explained how he and his family had started out in food service with a copy of the Good Food Guide in 1989 to identify local top-end restaurants to sell their duck to.

This had grown rapidly in the 1990s, when they won contracts with national distributers such as Brakes.

Given the typically small order sizes for duck, the company had added other lines, such as guinea fowl and corn-fed chicken, to bolster business.

Getting endorsements from celebrity chefs such as Antony Worrall Thompson, Delia Smith and Gordon Ramsay had also been a major factor. “Sometimes this has been more by luck, but when you do get it, maximise it to the full.”

Other top tips included keeping things simple – “it is the food service companies that want to add the value” – and guaranteeing consistency. “Food service is even more demanding than retail in terms of calibration and service.”

Having a story to tell about the product’s provenance was also essential. Just because a product was British did not mean it could command a higher price.

David Brass of The Lakes Free Range Eggs said he too focused on the premium end of the food service sector, rather than public procurement.

The fact that all his supplying farms were free range, with enriched ranges and biodiversity plans, while the packing station was highly carbon efficient, added to provenance.

This had helped the company win a major contract with McDonalds and, more recently, it had become one of the fast food chain’s flagship farms.

More from Pig and Poultry Fair 2012

See more news from the British Pig and Poultry Fair on our dedicated page.