The demand from our High Street customers in the past year has been like no other in DB Foods’ 30 year history, but has the fear of supermarkets, closure of the hospitality sector and people doing their best to make eating at home more fun created an appreciation of the independent butcher that is here to stay? We asked our Sales Director, George Holliday for his thoughts.
While many industries slowed, or even closed down, March 2020 saw the beginning of a hurricane that swept through meat retail with phenomenal speed. We had phone calls enquiring about stock all day (and messages left overnight), customers increasing orders every week and we even deployed drivers outside their routine deliveries, some meeting with butchers at half way points to meet demand.
We saw customers using social media on a daily basis to notify their customers of deliveries and devoting time and staff to taking orders and making home deliveries for the vulnerable and elderly. The consumer returning to buying meat from the butcher was a timely reminder that the personal service, attention to detail and trusted advice from a professional butcher are highly valued. The creativity and innovation of producing mouth-watering solutions from good quality meat has never been matched by the major super markets.
But now we are seeing restrictions start to lift, hospitality preparing to ease back into providing meals that people do not have to cook for themselves, and people returning to the lives they had before, I am often asked if people will revert back to their own habits? Will the ‘Butcher Bubble’ burst?
‘No’ was the answer when I asked my team which, between us all, covers a wide variety of butchers across the UK. It was felt that people who have discovered their local butcher over the past year have enjoyed the excitement of finding something new and, perhaps more importantly, realised that preconceptions of a local butcher being more expensive are completely untrue.
The value that people placed on a butcher for Christmas turkeys or Easter lunches, has now translated into the everyday giving something new, something exciting and something (happy) to talk about.
There can be no doubt that people have fallen in love with their gardens. The value of a personal, private outdoor space in the past year has seen people buy furniture, plant flowers and create beautiful environments to enjoy safely with loved ones. And food, or more specifically the barbeque, has been at the centre of it. People will not be abandoning their gardens if they have put their time, effort and money into them.
We can rest assured that this summer, the barbeque is going to be HUGE, arguably more so than last year because a) we are more prepared and b) international travel is looking increasingly difficult.
Whilst butchers are well-known for maintaining great customer relationships, the challenge for them, and meat wholesalers like us who support them, is maintaining the excitement, appreciation and attention the last year has given them. That is what our discussions are about now – introducing new offerings, having new ideas and thinking of ways to get attention.
It’s what our Customer Club and new product launches over the next few weeks are all about – not returning to the way things were, but pushing forward with innovation in addition to meeting demand.
Of course as hospitality returns, people will want to return to fine dining restaurants, gastro pubs and their local cafes, but there is an affection, loyalty and knowledge of what a local butcher can offer that will stay with us for a long time yet.