By Dale Burnett, CEO of Noble Foods Group
Through these extraordinary times, as the nation – and the world – tackles the outbreak of COVID-19, agility is of the utmost importance. As a business, our first priority is to support our farmers, colleagues and customers in the best way possible; our ability to react to the rapidly changing needs of consumers will have a huge impact on so many people involved in our business.
The foodservice sector, especially, is faced with incredibly challenging times. Almost overnight our customers had to shut up shop and their orders were cancelled. Simultaneously, the demand for egg products through grocery channels sky-rocketed. With households on lockdown, more meals than ever are being consumed within the home. Versatile and healthy, it is little wonder that eggs have rapidly become a go-to for quick and filling meals – from breakfast to dinner.
Reacting to this seismic shift in demand through different parts of our supply chain, we identified a solution whereby excess foodservice egg products could help cover some of the shortfall in grocery shell egg product. We made the decision to launch our foodservice brand – the Great British Egg Co. product lines – into the grocery channel, making liquid egg mixtures (80% egg, 20% milk) available to consumers for the first time.
By switching our foodservice liquid egg products into retail, we are able to minimise waste and help relieve the pressure on shell egg supply.
But this has been no small task. To achieve this turn-around of product we have gone through many, many hours of discussions with our retail customers and have had to create packaging solutions to convert foodservice volume products into more consumer-friendly formats. From initial pack designs to approved packaging took only seven days, a new record for the business, but one that was only achieved through a single-minded approach to do the right thing for our farmers and customers. End to end this process has remarkably been achieved in just six weeks – a testament to the hard work and dedication of my colleagues throughout the business.
While converting our volumes from foodservice to retail, we also spent time ensuring that our teams were as safe as they could be while fulfilling their roles. Although a significant part of our operations are automated, we put protective measures – such as screens – in place to facilitate safe social distancing in the parts of the process that normally require colleagues to stand in close proximity to each other.
COVID-19 will be remembered as a time when agile working and a ‘can do’ spirit helped to keep the UK food industry going.