Will our 'new normal' become our 'normal'?

Will our 'new normal' become our 'normal'?

Our Food Project Manager, Angharad Evans shares her thoughts on our changing routines during lockdown, how innovation, flexibility and collaboration has been key for many Food and Drink businesses, and how we as consumers can continue to support local producers to ride the storm.

So, we’re now into week 9 of lockdown, and I don’t know about you, but the ‘new’ normal now actually just feels, normal. My dining room table now serves as a home office, virtual conference centre, school desk, jigsaw station, Zoom-pub-base and we even manage to eat around it every now and again!   In between vying for space at the table and fighting over internet (“turn the wifi off on your phone, I’m lagging!”), the kitchen has also become a hub of activity, and it seems that this is a national phenomenon. During a pandemic crisis we have turned into a nation of bakers and home cooks! So hands up, how many of us have dug out from the back of our kitchen cupboards abandoned bread makers, dusty pasta machines or in our case, the ice cream maker (complete with cobwebs!) all with a renewed passion for ‘home made’?

While we rediscover the joys of home cooking, there’s no escaping the fact that for a lot of food and drink companies this pandemic will be catastrophic for their businesses.  The initial days of the lockdown were scary and businesses feared financial ruin, however, many swiftly reviewed their business model and saw that to survive, it was necessary to diversify…and quickly. 

My local bakery is now delivering, and not just bread and sweet treats, delivered to my doorstep now is milk, cheese, butter, sugar and even toilet roll!  The café down the road now delivers veg boxes – full of fantastic seasonal fruit and veg, much of which is local. Local butchers are struggling to keep up with demand and have to close shop in order to restock. Restaurants turned almost overnight into ‘delivery only’, and even pubs have transformed into shops, take-aways and off licences to keep some sort of income coming in.

Small businesses quickly turned to social media to advertise their new services, local directories of who’s delivering what have popped up, while support also came from online food and drink sites like Big Barn, who developed a new online system to connect small businesses with customers.  For others, collaboration has been key, take for example #wyevalleyproducers, a group of Wye Valley food and drink producers who have come together to offer an online ‘Click & Collect’ farmer’s market with a weekly drive through collection point in Chepstow.  Welsh online retailer, Discover Delicious, are now working in partnership with Blas ar Fwyd to offer a consolidated delivery service across Wales. Meanwhile, Dylan’s restaurants in North Wales have launched ‘Neges’ with Menter Môn to establish a food delivery service,  ensuring that the most vulnerable people on Anglesey and in Gwynedd are fed during the COVID-19 outbreak. The list of charitable, self-less, initiatives that business have come up with is endless and humbling!  Successful businesses understand that times like these require innovation, flexibility and support.  Much of that support needs to come from us, all of us can play a part in helping these businesses ride the storm.  

We as consumers are once again looking closer to home for what we need. My Mum has just discovered she has a greengrocer in her area “I don’t know why I don’t get my fruit and veg there!” and has vowed that post-lockdown she will continue to support her new-found friendly supplier. So, when all this is over, will we still remember how our local food and drink businesses adapted to keep us fed through the most challenging times in recent history? Has it taken a pandemic crisis for us to fully appreciate the wealth of fantastic produce that we have right here on our doorstep?  Has all this changed how we will source our food and drink in the future? I, for one, really hope so!

 


Angharad Evans, BIC Food Project Manager

Angharad brings 25 years’ experience to the role, along with her passion for food and drink.  Working as part of the Food Team, Angharad has helped co-ordinate 9 food and drink trade development visits on behalf of the Welsh Government’s Food Division and is currently working on delivering virtual trade development visits as well as co-ordinating training workshops and events for the Food and Drink Export Club. An experienced event co-ordinator, Angharad has a proven record of delivering a wide range of events from cookery demonstrations and exhibitions through to award ceremonies, and even the broadcast of the Welsh Assembly’s third term Royal opening.