Interview- How has Savona Foodservice adapted to the pandemic?

Paul Hill chats with Savona Foodservice group digital manager Jenny Squire


What does your work with the NHS/care homes involve during the crisis?

It’s business as usual as these are core industries within our regular market sector.
In addition, during the pandemic we’ve promoted a 10% discount for key workers as a thank you, and offered deliveries to their homes and workplaces whilst they’ve struggled to access supermarkets or find supplies. We’ve also been working to source further PPE.
We were interested to discover that many care homes rely on retail for resources. The government announced that many care homes have been struggling with resources, but when we’ve tried to get the message out there that we have a warehouse full of supplies, from daily essentials to more specialist products aimed specifically for this sector, we’ve come across barriers from the media.

We released a ‘Nominate a Care Home’ campaign on social media which saw an astounding and very heartfelt response from local communities, as well as suppliers wanting to get involved to give prizes for every member of staff at the winning home. On top of this, our Oxford depot have been involved in the NHS Nightingale initiative. We were approached by Thomas Franks to help with the logistics.

What has your relationship with your suppliers been like since the crisis began? Could they be doing more?

As mentioned previously, one supplier in particular got in touch having seen the launch of our Care Home Nomination, asking if they could source and supply prizes. They’ve worked closely with us throughout the process. This will no doubt cement our future partnership.

Suppliers have been supportive with regards to alternative product recommendation to suit the public market, working with us to broaden our appeal to the ever-changing situation.

Good relationships have formed as a result of us being honest and open.
As we align our own business strategy we’ll rely on the expertise of our manufactures to work within specific sectors.

Read more: Savona and Thomas Ridley open doors to the public

Do you think the government’s support package works for the wholesale channel?

It leaves a very big gap for foodservice wholesalers whose hospitality market has virtually disappeared  We are all sitting on stock that is going out of date and debts due from businesses that either can’t pay or won’t pay. To ensure we continue to serve the health sector, we need support as we are currently making losses supporting care homes etc.

What advice would you give to wholesalers during this difficult period?

We’ve been working with our  fellow Country Range members to share best practice – what new initiatives worked and what has not worked so well. Here is statement relating to this we published on our social channels:

“It’s a time for listening, learning and not sitting comfortably! Since opening to the public, like many wholesalers, we’ve had to adapt new services, new processes, new routines, and staff have had to be trained and adapt accordingly. Marketing to a new audience has meant posting different content on social media, with a new language, listening to members of the public to learn what they want to see, and what peaks their interests. When Covid-19 first hit, the most successful posts were a) product-related as they learnt that their local wholesaler indeed stocks everyday essentials, and b) the launch of collection and home delivery services. These received unprecedented engagement as our new audience shared with friends and family. We now need to learn how to continue customer loyalty and reach yet more people. We’re doing this by studying behaviour, insights and data, and engaging with customers emotionally to build our brand profile for the future. With this in mind, emotive story-telling campaigns such as Care Home Nominations and Covid-19 Heroes have seen high quantity engagement.”

Read more: Savona Foodservice has ambitious growth plans

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Paul Hill
Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. Paul can be found on Twitter on @BW_PaulHill, or can be contacted via paul.hill@newtrade.co.uk and 020 7689 3376.

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