Rob Munro, managing director at Carr’s Flour, on how the business reacted to an almost-threefold increase in production of retail packs.

For the milling industry, the past month has been extremely challenging, as the initial panic-buying [amid the Covid-19 pandemic] saw huge demand increases. So many firms have seen their teams triumph over adversity as we come to realise some of the hardest tests our industry has ever faced.

Our mills responded by immediately increasing production, alongside implementing new procedures for social distancing and dealing with the labyrinth of logistical problems, knowing there was also no blueprint for what would come next. Thanks to a mammoth effort by everyone at Carr’s, we were able to increase production by 30% at several of our mills from a standing start.

In retail flour, we have been able to ramp up production from 135,000 small packs per week to over 350,000. As such, we supplied twice the amount our regular customers had taken the previous month. In these extraordinary times, we were flexible and proactive; we dug deep, we changed shifts and extended working hours, all because we knew we had an obligation to our customers. 

It has also been incredibly important to us to show gratitude to the communities that keep our mills going, so we established the Carr’s Crisis Fund. We hope to say thanks by contributing to local schemes, the NHS and the social care sector by providing equipment and resources.

The reality is that the market has become more nuanced since the initial spike

What does the future hold for the industry? As many of you will be aware, the reality is that the market has become more nuanced since the initial spike, with foodservice declines offset by ethnic flours, pre-pack and national bakery demand.

One constant is that the most valuable resources for Carr’s are our employees and customers.

We will continue to push forward, relying on our principles of quality and perseverance. I am keenly aware that some of our customers have not been able to continue their operations. For me, this makes it even more imperative that we support by ensuring flour can get through the supply chain.

One way we are doing this is by further investment in automation at our Silloth Mill, that will aid packing for retail packs.

I wish all my customers the very best in these hard times and I sincerely hope to see the bakery business in every area emerge from this crisis, if not stronger, then more resolute and with a fresh appreciation from society of the importance of food in bringing people together.