Nationwide delivery has been the saving grace for some craft bakeries during the pandemic as they seek to reach potential customers outside of their region. The logistics of such an operation, however, have proved challenging.
“For many businesses, national distribution has been their only option for the last 12 months. It’s compensated for lost opportunities. It’s been game changing,” said Charlie Turnball, founder of Delishops.
Described as a cross between Amazon and an old-fashioned agent, Delishops offers bakers a way of selling their products through wholesale and direct to consumers across the country.
Nationwide delivery is becoming easier for clients, he says, with large volume users increasingly interested in consolidation.
“They want a single source, and there is an increasing demand for consolidation among bigger retailers, such as garden centres. They want to be able to order through one portal,” Turnball adds.
A new Cake Club subscription box has given Ginger Bakers another arm, believes founder Lisa Smith.
The Cumbria-based bakery kickstarted a monthly service offering subscribers a choice of either four traybake portions, a sponge loaf cake or a fruit cake delivered direct to their door each month. Smith wanted to tap into the online shopping boom during Covid, she says.
Ginger Bakers doesn’t disclose which cake varieties the recipient will receive each month. Instead, the team decides what products are going out in advance, tailoring them to upcoming months or occasions, such as Valentine’s Day.
Covid gave us the opportunity to put the business under the microscope, analyse it and how it functioned
Smith admits she’s been surprised by the popularity of the service so far.
Similarly, Lovingly Artisan decided to launch a nationwide delivery service to create a more sustainable business.
“It’s like creating another store,” says co-founder Catherine Connor. “It’s created another thread from the business to consumer. Covid gave us the opportunity to put the business under the microscope, analyse it and how it functioned.”
Connor, who runs the business with her husband Aidan Monks, admits they wanted to keep a strong relationship with their customers. The goal was to offer a delivery service where people could get bread baked for them in the afternoon with next day delivery.
One trend that has emerged is consumers buying gifts. Connor noticed that a lot of people were sending ‘cheer-up boxes’ to loved ones, mums or friends that weren’t feeling too well.
Turnball notes that delivery is becoming competitive, with the biggest challenge being minimum order quantity.
“For small, low volume users, such as post offices, getting the minimum order quantity is always a problem,” he adds.
The delivery service hasn’t worked for some of his clients. A challenge Delishops faces is having enough of a range from a single supplier. For example, it is difficult to get minimum quantities up as quickly as big suppliers.
“From a retailer’s point of view, you can use a mixed delivery, mixed source model, to make sure you’ve got bread on your shelves all the time and manage the issues around delivery on that basis,” Turnball explains.
Seasons Bakery already had an online shop selling courses for its bakery school, Seasons Artisan School. When Covid hit, owner Daniel Nemeth decided to expand it with a range of cakes, sourdough bread and pastries. He realised there were a lot of people just outside of the area they were delivering to that were struggling to get products, he adds.
From a retailer’s point of view, you can use a mixed delivery to make sure you’ve got bread on your shelves all the time
A challenge presented itself in the strength of the delivery boxes.
“We had a few learning curbs with packaging. We had to use the boxes that we had and double them,” explains Nemeth.
After finding a solution with its packaging supplier, Seasons Bakery had boxes made from recycled cardboard that were stronger and more enforced.
“We use all recyclable packaging – we’re very green. The boxes that we use are purposely built for us,” adds Nemeth.
In addition, Ginger Bakers uses as much recyclable packaging, paper- and card-based products as possible. However, it is currently still using some plastic.
“We have looked into using compostable plastics. We’re still not using them because the shelf life of a compostable plastic is not compatible with the shelf life of our product,” adds Smith.
Following the eco-packaging wave, Lovingly Artisan uses a recyclable bread bin for its packaging.
“It’s designed in sustainable card and the inks used are compatible with food. Every step of the way, from the bags that have come from France to the boxes, has been about the conservation of sourdough and the experience of the consumer,” explains Connor.