10. VEGETABLE GROWER/SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR
Recognising the outstanding vegetable grower of 2019.
1. Flamingo Produce
Faced with increases in wages, and a dwindling labour pool in the UK, it became clear that our current model of packing imported raw material in the UK was difficult to sustain.
We decided to build on the successes of our pack-at-source experiences in Kenya, to move as much of the packing of product as close to source as possible, giving our suppliers increased revenue and decreasing our exposure to UK-based uncertainty.
This required significant levels of engagement from stakeholders, including growers, packers, machinery manufacturers, shippers and, of course, customers.
Adopting this model has enabled us to ensure that we are fit for the future. Our cost base remains more or less static, we are reducing packaging and food waste, our customer’s prices remain competitive, all whilst increasing revenue for our suppliers in developing countries.
We at Flamingo have met this universal challenge head on, recognising that many of our end users cannot absorb the extra costs that have been incurred. The simplest option would have been to shrug our shoulders, say there is nothing we can do about this, and put our prices up.
We have demonstrated that there is another way, and that although it might require some investments in terms of both time and money, the end goal is worth it.
We have helped secure our own business for the future and we would support this strategy in all other businesses that import product. Let your suppliers do the jobs that you know they can do.
Riverford is a pioneering organic box scheme set up over 30 years ago by Guy Singh-Watson, who began by growing vegetables on the family farm and selling them to friends.
Proper farmers with mud on our boots, Riverford now supplies 50,000 veg boxes a week across the UK, from a combination of growing our own and from our network of organic vegetable growers. Vegetables have always been at the heart of what we do and will always be our core product. We host trials on our farm in Devon and are always innovating – whether that’s stripy aubergines or mini cucumbers.
We want our veg boxes to be affordable as well as top-quality, fresh and organic. Every month we compare our veg box prices against the equivalent organic veg in Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. The good news is that our boxes tend to come out cheaper – even without including our free delivery. Competitive prices are achieved without abusing supplier relationships. Riverford recently removed all discount offers, which are paid for down the line by a supplier, and instead focuses on loyalty as a way of growing customer numbers.
The last year has been record-breaking in terms of sales, with the company on track to reach £70m in turnover by 2020 for the first time in its history. The trend for plant-based eating, a major marketing campaign, and a move to employee ownership boosting productivity have solidified Riverford’s position as the UK’s leading organic vegetable supplier.
3. Riviera Produce
Riviera Produce is the Simmons’ family business and they have been growing vegetables in west Cornwall since 1870.
Tom Simmons is the sixth generation to be in the business and Riviera Produce currently markets around 40% of the cauliflower and spring greens grown in Cornwall. They have been working with Aldi for seven years, growing the business year on year so that now it represents 20% of their business.
Riviera Produce now employ over 400 people, making them one of the largest employers in Cornwall. This enables much-needed revenues to be put back into the local economy, creating further jobs and service opportunities for local businesses. The commitment Aldi offers Riviera Produce enables them to make long-term investments in buildings and equipment. This enables efficiencies to be made which ensures we are able to sustainably produce the crops at the low prices that Aldi and its customers’ desire. Aldi have also recently agreed three-year winter deals with Riviera on some product lines.
New product development revolves around automation as Riviera Produce looks to improve productivity to ensure sustainability. They work with local universities to develop new techniques and processes to improve productivity. Riviera Produce are very proactive in building sustainable farming. Through improving soil structures and wildlife, modern farming and the environment can work together to provide the countryside we love, prospering for many years to come.