The Royal Norfolk Show 2017: Food and drink producers adopt different strategies to tackle increasing costs

Andrew Nelstrop, managing director of the English Whiskey Company, pours The Norfolk whiskey at the

Andrew Nelstrop, managing director of the English Whiskey Company, pours The Norfolk whiskey at the company's stand at the Royal Norfolk Show 2017. Picture: Bethany Whymark - Credit: Archant

Striking new deals with producers and purchasing in different currencies are among tactics helping East Anglia's food and drink producers to ride the wave of business uncertainty.

Richard Fowler, from the sales team at Holt cake maker Sponge, on the company's stand at the Royal N

Richard Fowler, from the sales team at Holt cake maker Sponge, on the company's stand at the Royal Norfolk Show 2017. Picture: Bethany Whymark - Credit: Archant

Amid ramifications of the Brexit vote and the continued weakness of the pound, companies from spirit makers to crisp producers who exhibited at the Royal Norfolk Show are employing different tactics to defend their bottom line.

James Fowler, of Holt bakery Sponge, said rising ingredient prices had hit the company hard since Brexit.

'Butter nearly trebled in price which was hard for us,' he said.

'Most companies buy the cheapest products, like New Zealand butter of American flour. As the prices of the cheapest products have gone up on speculation, some British producers have opportunistically raised their prices.

Mark Richmond, owner of Nelson and NorfolkTea in Bradfield, on his stand at the Royal Norfolk Show 2

Mark Richmond, owner of Nelson and NorfolkTea in Bradfield, on his stand at the Royal Norfolk Show 2017. Picture: Bethany Whymark - Credit: Archant


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'We focus on using British produce, so we have absorbed most of the price rises, but there have been some small product price increases.

'The biggest problem for us is whether people still want to spend money, which they do.'

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He added: 'We are feeling very confident, and growth is still strong.'

Mark Richmond, owner of the Nelson and Norfolk Tea Company in Bradfield near Mundesley, has also had to swallow price rises in raw materials.

James Clark, owner of the Ely Gin Company, on his stand at the Royal Norfolk Show 2017. Picture: Bet

James Clark, owner of the Ely Gin Company, on his stand at the Royal Norfolk Show 2017. Picture: Bethany Whymark - Credit: Archant

He said: 'Tea prices from abroad have gone up, but it is a crop like coffee so there are always fluctuations.

'As a business we are still seeing year-on-year growth and I am very optimistic.

'I think people are looking for specialist products and artisan producers, and that is where I think we have to change at the minute.'

Andrew Nelstrop, managing director of the English Whiskey Company in Harling, said his business was knuckling down in its local market.

Kettle Chips managing director Ashley Hicks in the food hall at the Royal Norfolk Show 2017.
Picture

Kettle Chips managing director Ashley Hicks in the food hall at the Royal Norfolk Show 2017. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

It is also offering to sell European exports in the customer's home currency, which can then by used to purchase products such as bottles abroad.

Mr Nelstrop said: 'We are bullish because we have two lines. We are really confident about the domestic market and tourism, which has been doing really well, but exports are harder.

'We are pricing on a worst-case-scenario exchange rate and suddenly we are expensive, but we are not seeing a real downturn.'

Ashley Hicks, managing director of Kettle Foods, said 'simplifying' business was key to tackling uncertainty.

'The biggest impact for us from the Brexit vote was currency changes, which made the raw materials more expensive,' he said.

'We are selling to European countries in euros, and then use them to buy ingredients like sunflower oil, so exports are helping there.'

The company is also packing its delivery boxes for larger clients Sainsbury's and Waitrose with 12 bags of crisps instead of 10, reducing cardboard and transport costs, and has struck up a new deal with Drurys Transport for transportation of its potatoes from local suppliers, saving money for both the firm and its contracting farms.

James Clark, owner of the Ely Gin Company, believed it was too soon to start changing tack despite the uncertainty.

'This year people have been a bit more cautious. It was okay up until Mothers' Day, then it went a bit flat. That is when we had the general election and Brexit became a reality.

'But we cannot plan for Brexit yet because we do not know what is going to happen,' he said.

He added that Brexit had not influenced his plans to begin exporting.

Tim Mack, a consultant for condiments company Stokes, based near Woodbridge, said the firm had a history of faring well through uncertainty.

'Regionally it is looking very positive,' he said. 'When money is tight people spend money more wisely and they look for good products, so Stokes has survived uncertainty before.'

Matt Brown, co-founder of Founding Drinks near Swaffham, which makes Wild Knight vodka, said the company did not set too much score by political events.

'You just have to get on with business,' he said.

'We are still relatively small – to grow our business we just have to make more contacts.

'Our UK prices are pretty locked in. We do buy some elements in euros but because it is a minor cost element in the product I do not see us having to put our prices up over it.'

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