During this year many Welsh food and drink businesses have had to think outside of the box and create new ways of doing business to cope with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of the Welsh Government’s Food and Drink Division one food business has done just that. Based in Flint, north Wales and employing 25 people, The Pudding Compartment, has had to reinvent its business model after sales dropped to zero overnight.
Previously the company’s customer base was solely the food service industry and travel sectors which all came to a halt in March as pubs, restaurants and cafés closed and the travel industry collapsed.
Steve West, Managing Director of The Pudding Compartment explains the devastating effect the pandemic has had on his business and what they have done to overcome the crisis:
“I have been running my own bakery business in North Wales since 2007, specialising in cakes and desserts, and we have been supplying the food service industry since 2013. In early 2020, our 25 team members were creating around 40,000 handmade sweet treats each week and sending them to pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, travel hubs and iconic venues in all corners of the UK. Annual sales hit £1M for the first time in early March 2020.
“However, when the national lockdown came in all our sales vanished overnight. Since then we have been busy reinventing The Pudding Compartment. We had to think on our feet quickly, and think of different strategies to keep the business afloat.
“We were lucky as we took advantage of the available Welsh and UK governments’ support schemes, so we were able to furlough staff at the beginning and since then have been in receipt have been the recipient of the resilience funds.
“In addition, in the middle of the national lockdown we decided to create a long term social enterprise called A Million Thanks. We created a website www.amillionthanks.co.uk and offered to buy surplus ingredients and snacks from struggling bakeries and food service wholesalers around the country at wholesale or discounted prices, which helped them pay their bills and hopefully offered long term survival.
“We then re-bagged the ingredients into smaller bags, and offered them for sale to customers stuck at home and struggling to source basic ingredients such as flour and sugar. We also donated a lot of treats to key workers to say thank you.
“We then developed a value range of snacks which we are now supplying via a distributor into schools in Flintshire, and we are now sourcing more public sector clients.”
Much of this work would not have been possible without the Welsh Government’s support and the work does not stop there as Steve explains,
“Next we are preparing the launch of a new retail format, a grab and go product and a traybake under our new brand, The Creative Bake Co, helped with the support of Menter A Busnes, that we will be launching soon.
“The help and support we have received from the Welsh Government has been very useful. We are a member of the Fine Foods Cluster Group and it is an excellent community to work within. We have been joining virtual seminars, and the latest one has given us a number of ideas of how we can expand further on our new strategy.”
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said: “During this crisis for Welsh food and drink businesses, The Pudding Compartment is doing an excellent job of diversification, by varying its range of products and expanding its client base.
“Covid-19 is impacting the Welsh food and drink sector hugely and threatens business survival. The Welsh Government, acting under the guidance and on the advice of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board is taking action already to support the sector through the immediate impact and the first steps towards recovery.
“We want to maximise the number of food and drink businesses that survive the Covid-19 disruption and sustain supply chain networks within the sector and supporting areas. We need to minimise job losses in the sector and support the sector to recover as fast as possible and return to sales growth.
“It is therefore critical that Welsh food and drink businesses get the help and support needed as fast as possible to survive this crisis in the food industry and to emerge stronger for the future.”