The Covid crisis is forcing change at an unprecedented rate with a huge and immediate impact on the food industry and for those businesses that have adapted quickly to the new normal and provided game changing innovation, the mantra ‘innovate or die’ couldn’t be more true.
When fresh is not always best? Feeding the most vulnerable during the crisis.
What’s on my radar? Brewdog’s cheeky new beer and Paying it Forward.
Explore more and read on!
INNOVATE OR DIE - THE NEW NORMAL
The Covid crisis is forcing change at an unprecedented rate with a huge and immediate impact on the food industry and for those businesses that have adapted quickly to the new norm and provided game changing innovation, the mantra 'innovate or die' couldn't be more true.
Missing your favourite take-outs?
In response to the lockdown, several high street favourites like Pizza Pilgrim have created meal kits to help their customer’s recreate their faves at home.
According to Pizza Pilgrim “Our Frying Pan Pizza Kit contains enough dough, tomato sauce and toppings to make two banging Margherita pizzas, that can be cooked in a frying pan! We’ve developed these kits not only so you can enjoy them in the comfort of your home with your loved ones, but also because each kit sold helps us pay and support our staff in this difficult time. Each and every penny possible goes back to our team.”
Mercifully, Patty & Bun and Hammersmith butcher HG Walter have a handy solution for feeding London’s cheeseburger craving during lockdown: a DIY burger kit delivered contact-free to your door.
The quarantine patty kit is the ultimate crisis care package: all the ingredients to make four classic P&B burgers, whether it’s the Ari Gold cheeseburger or the bacon-filled Smokey Robinson.
You’ll be sent four signature HG Walter beef patties, brioche buns, a miniature squeezy bottle of Smokey P&B Mayo, cheese slices and homemade pickled and smokey onions. Think of it as a homemade takeaway: all you need on top is some lettuce and tomato.
Remember when signature recipes were guarded like the Crown Jewels?
Not anymore, as the new normal takes hold and major food chains share their recipe secrets with loyal fans during lockdown.
For those mourning the closure of Greggs and wondering when they will next be able to lay their hands on a humble steak bake, Greggs has launched its own DIY baking tutorials – coined as GIY (Greggs It Yourself). These videos explain how customers can recreate popular items on the menu at home, while stores remain closed.
McDonalds has revealed how you can make your own breakfast Sausage & Egg McMuffin at home and Pret has been sharing a whole host of recipes on their website with social media going gaga over their famous gooey dark chocolate chunk cookie recipe.
Are restaurants the new grocery stores?
You wouldn’t be alone to think this as restaurants, pubs and cafes open shops to sell ingredients, meals and even tableware. Perhaps starting off as a way to sell surplus stock at the start of lockdown, for some it has successfully morphed into a new revenue stream, either way, it’s another great opportunity for locals to support their local.
And for those looking to recreate the River Cafe experience at home, help is only a click away as this west London institution has opened a shop selling a wide range of mouth watering delicacies.
As restaurants, bars and cafes closed, the traditional supply chain for food service companies disappeared overnight. Suddenly everyone had to rethink their traditional models. With large quantities of stock to shift and no customers in sight, many wholesalers started selling direct to the public for the first time, including home delivery in some cases.
Speciality wholesalers like HG Walters and Natoora were overwhelmed by the public’s response. With people unable to shop as regularly at supermarkets, online grocery slots booked out for weeks, and some products hard to find, these wholesalers provided much needed help to feed the UK during lockdown.
And even Brakes, the UK’s largest food service provider, has been selling direct to consumers for the first. It also partnered up with competitor Bidfood to deliver food parcels to people identified as the most vulnerable by the Government.
And I wonder, as we start to emerge from the lockdown, will direct to public selling by wholesalers continue?
I suspect those that have innovated quickly and taken the opportunity to build a credible consumer facing brand, will see benefits in this new channel as they rethink their traditional models.
FRESH IS NOT ALWAYS BEST.
Frozen food has become the new norm as the freezer is given a new lease of life.
Freezers are full to bursting thanks to restaurant closures and supermarket queues. People are also beginning to realise that frozen food can be healthy, budget friendly and help to reduce food waste. Most frozen food comes in convenient re-sealable bags, individually portioned, which helps with weekly and monthly meal planning, and stretches the wallet further.
According to Google Trends, interest in frozen food delivery and frozen meal delivery services spiked in interest in the latter half of March, around when the news of COVID-19 in the UK was at its peak. This isn’t surprising as many people began to stockpile and the long-term storability of frozen foods obviously had an appeal for those worried about potential food shortages.
Brands like Cook have been around for a while and caused a stir when they first launched their hand-made frozen meals that actually tasted great!
But the freezer aisle has always been the poor relation to fresh, however with people perhaps trying frozen food for the first time during lockdown, this new and potentially long term behaviour change has highlighted the need for more diverse, exciting and healthy freezer options for the post Covid world.
FEEDING THE MOST VULNERABLE DURING THE CRISIS
I feel immensely proud to have supported The Felix Project, London's largest food redistribution charity, by volunteering as a driver during the crisis with the help of my flatmate Lukasz Fiedoruk
For those who know me well, you’ll know I regularly volunteer as a driver for the Felix Project in the Notting Hill area. So when the lockdown started, panic buying erupted in the shops and food donations started to dry up, I thought there must be something I can do to help. So I started driving two shifts a week for Felix from their Park Royal depot with the help of my flatmate, his first volunteering experience.
We delivered much needed food, that would have otherwise gone to waste, to central London charities as well as pre-prepared meals from the Caring Foundation to Great Ormond Street Hospital for the NHS staff. The first few weeks were surreal as central
London was a ghost town but it was very rewarding to be doing something and helping others in need.
I hope that during lockdown people have a better appreciation of how difficult it is for some to put food on the table. And equally to be more appreciative of the food that we have and waste less. As the lockdown measures ease, please let’s not forget that food poverty will not ease for some of the most vulnerable in society. Get involved or donate to the Evening Standard Food for London Now Appeal or give food to your local food bank.
WHAT'S ON MY RADAR
Look out for a cheeky new brew from Brewdog and a simple act of kindness by paying it forward.
Never ones to knowingly pass over the chance for a PR stunt, brewery and pub chain BrewDog has launched a new limited edition beer poking fun at the recent row surrounding Dominic Cummings, according to the Evening Standard.
The new brew, called the Barnard Castle Eye Test, references Cummings’ controversial decision to take a 60-mile drive from his parents’ farm in Durham to a ruin in Teesdale, in order, Mr Cummings said, “to see if I could drive safely”, ahead of a planned journey back to London.
The New England IPA-style beer is described by BrewDog as “short-sighted beer for tall stories”, adding that the drink is “dry-hopped for a juicy hit with pineapple mango and a hint of zesty lime.” All profits go to funding BrewDog’s production of free sanitiser for the NHS & Health Care Charities.
The Hospitality industry has been hit hard during the lockdown so what better way to support your local pub or restaurant, than by paying it forward.
In Manchester the Pay it Forward campaign is a great initiative for locals to support their hospitality and nightlife industry. It’s simple, you buy a voucher online that is redeemable after COVID-19 has run its course – the aim is to keep the legendary Manchester social scene thriving through these trying times.
In London the Gypsy Hill Brewing Company is working with 9 other independent breweries on a pay it forward scheme, that encourages people to buy a £5 pint for front line workers that can be redeemed when taprooms reopen – cheers to that!
AND A FINAL WORD FROM WAYNE
For some of us the lockdown has been a time to pause and reflect while for others it's been a frenetic and nail biting journey. As we start to emerge from the lockdown let's support our local F&B businesses as they reopen and enjoy a cheeky brewdog or two with friends.
Hopefully life will be a little more balanced and kinder for this shared experience.
Thanks for reading!