Good food enterprises: adapting to the pandemic, one year on

new survey report, published by Sustain, outlines how good food enterprises have been affected and responded to a year of disrupted supply chains, lockdowns and changes in buying behaviours. 

Credit: Pexels, Laura James

A year after an intial report into the impact of the first Covid lockdown, Sustain again surveyed good food enterprises within Food Coops, Sustainable Food Places and London Food Link networks to better understand how they had adapted.

The inital findings, published in a report in May 2020, saw many enterprises, which included cafes, producers, shops, markets and buying groups, had quickly adapted to changing consumer behaviours, overcame the challenges of fragile supply chains and made use of networks and partnerships.

Key findings one year on include: 

  • Adaptions made as a response to the pandemic are here to stay. Good food enterprises adapted and diversified to respond to pandemic, with the most common adaptations being creating a delivery service (52%), online ordering (41%) providing new of different products of services (35%). Two thirds of enterprises plan to continue with their adaptations longer term, showing that these changes appear to have benefited their business model. 
  • More people are buying from good food enterprises than before the pandemic. Almost two thirds reported increase customer numbers and just under half had increased revenue indicating an increase use of local, good food enterprises than before the pandemic.  
  • There has been more collaboration between local food enterprises and other businesses in local food networks, with 60% reporting increased collaboration between enterprises, organisations and others within the local food network in the past year and 30% accessing new supply chains. Examples of increased collaboration included producers sharing deliveries, focussing on sourcing from small, local producers, food businesses helping each other with sourcing and supplying food and ingredients. Other enterprises commented on making new links with health centres, community centres and food banks and collaborating on the emergency food response.   
  • Good food enterprises supported those in need, but were not able to access support themselves. Of those surveyed, 42% had supported the emergency food response, through working with local councils and food partnerships and helping to source, prepare, donate and deliver food. Whilst these enterprises stepped up to contribute to community resilience, over half had not been able to access local or national government support, including financial support, business advice or access to council resources. 

The latest report includes recommendations for local and national governments as well as Local Enterprise Partnerships to ensure good food enterprises have a seat at the table and taken seriously as part of the green economic recovery, build back better and community wealth building strategies. 

Ren Piercey, Local Action Officer, 

‘It’s brilliant to hear that good food enterprises on the whole have been able to adapt to the pressures of this year and as a result seen increases in customer base and revenue. These enterprises have shown their resilience and really are key assets to their communities. 

 It is, however, concerning to find that many were unable to access support from national and local government, many citing because they didn’t fit into a ‘neat funding box’. Investment in small and medium good food enterprises is not only economically preferable, but also key for community wealth building, job creation and tackling the nature and climate crisis. It’s important that the Government takes this sector seriously as we start to build back better and directs investment into local community-focused enterprises that do not focus purely on profit.’  

Sustain’s new five-year strategy has an organisational focus on supporting the good food economy and we will be exploring how we can support good food enterprises going forward as well as ensuring they have a seat at the table as the Government plans for ‘building back better’. 

Read the report here.

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