Artisan Food and Drink Veteran Edward Berry on the Food and Drink Marketing Mix
Today’s episode, episode #40, is the second of a two-part series featuring Edward Berry, previously Managing Director of The Ludlow Food Centre and now owner of the new food and drink consultancy, The Flying Fork.
Let me recommend that you listen to the first part of this series, episode #39, before you listen to this episode. In episode #39, “A Sensual Feast: A Tour of the Shop Floor of the Ludlow Food Centre with Edward Berry”, Edward tells the story of his quite frankly phenomenal career in fine food and drink and takes us on a sumptuous virtual tour of the 4,000 square feet of the Ludlow Food Centre, one of the best farm shops in the UK.
Know Your Four ‘P’s
Back to today’s episode in which Edward shares much of the business knowledge and wisdom he’s gained over several decades in not just global food and drink management positions but also from setting up his own food and drink retail and food production businesses. The emphasis in this episode of the show is on the food and drink marketing mix: price, product, promotion and place.
The Flying Fork
Towards the end of this episode, Edward describes the advisory services he offers, via The Flying Fork, to independent food and drink retail and food and drink production businesses across the business functions, including production and marketing. No matter how big your food or drink business is, if you’d like to get in touch with Edward for some friendly help or solid advice, check out his website, which is www.theflyingfork.co.uk.
Click on the Player Below to Listen to the Show
Get the Show Transcript
If audio isn’t your thing, you can download a transcript of the show here: Ep #040: The Flying Fork: Edward Berry on the Food and Drink Marketing Mix.
You can also find the full transcript of the show at the end of this post.
Very Sound Bites from Edward Berry
Don’t Miss New Episode of the Artisan Food & Drink Business Show
If you’d like to hear each new episode of the show as it’s released you can subscribe for free on iTunes.
Links Mentioned in the Show
- Edward Berry on LinkedIn
- Edward Berry’s new food and drink consultancy theflyingfork.co.uk
- The Ludlow Food Centre
- The Clive Hotel and Restaurant
- Hobson’s Brewery
- The Ludlow Kitchen
- A short article about James Averdieck founder (and eventual seller) of Gu and subsequent founder of The Coconut Collaborative.
Thanks for Listening
Thanks for listening to the show. If you are a food or drink producer who would like to come on the show (it’s free) to talk about your products, or if you are an industry professional who would like to talk about your services, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me by using the Contact Form on this website or by tweeting me @FoodDrinkShow.
To hear when each new episode of the show is released simply sign up for my newsletter.
If you have any questions or comments just use the Comments section below.
Like It? Please Share It!
Please share the show with friends or colleagues who might find it useful or interesting — just use any of the social media buttons on this page.
Transcript of the Show
Catherine Moran: Edward that was absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for taking us around the floor of the Ludlow Food Centre where we saw lots of wonderful artisan food and drink. In your rule as a buyer, what factors do you consider when deciding to list an artisan food or drink product?
Edward Berry: The first thing to remember about us is that we produce our own food, and therefore it’s not just a question of “local”. We don’t really want to compete with ourselves, so I need to ensure that our priority is to our own food because that is what this place is all about. It’s a bit like walking into a butcher’s and asking for a pint of milk. He’ll say, “I don’t do that.” We don’t have everything, what we do, and what we should have is what we make ourselves, that’s our priority. The second thing is we do obviously have a very strong loyalty to local, and local for us doesn’t mean all over the place. It actually means… we’ve defined it as being within the surrounding 4 counties.
We’ve got Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Powys, which is… we actually go into Wales as well, and we enjoy that because these are counties which we believe have got excellent opportunities.
We do go beyond because I also want to ensure that we have a reasonably full basket. I’d rather that if you were shopping that you found what you were looking for here rather than going somewhere else. I would accept that out of season we will carry things that are not necessarily local, and I’m happy to be challenged on that. I don’t remember seeing olives growing in this country. I don’t see an awful lot of lemons. From an ingredient point of view I would say we have… I’m happy to embrace others. Actually, if I find something that I think is really interesting, I’ll go for it.
I had an interesting encounter through a friend the other day, who has a home in Gascony and he showed me what he was… He got involved with a local garlic producer. Well, of course, plenty of garlic is grown in the UK, a lot is grown in China as well. I saw a story I really liked, and this was a genuine French farmer with his wife growing excellent quality garlic. It looked beautiful. He was plaiting it into these tresses, and I thought, “Well why don’t we sell those?” I’m happy to do that. I did first of all check with Bridie, who looks after our vegetables here, “Is there somebody we’re buying garlic from who’s going to be compromised?” I don’t want to do that. “Is there a special person?” “No, we’re currently getting it through a wholesaler.”
We haven’t made a great issue if you like of finding a special… There’s a very strong brand on the Isle of Wight. We know them well, but I thought this was an opportunity to say, “Well, this is in the spirit of the food centre.” It may not be from our doorstep, but it’s in the spirit of the food centre. Actually, a friend of mine is bringing it back, it’s not being shipped. It’s in his car, and there’s a very nice story. I’m very happy to embrace that, and then also happy to take on products which if you like, complement what we’re doing, so sauces and accompaniments to what we do. I’m also very keen to support local producers. Possibly some who are starting out and we are going to be devoting a section to up and coming local food producers.
Catherine Moran: How interesting. So very early stage food and drink producers, you’re referring to there?
Edward Berry: They’ve got to be the early but not the first stage, and with due respect, if someone arrives with a bag of fudge that they’ve made in their kitchen, I’m not sure that’s really what I’m talking about. You have to be aware that we are a shop, we are selling produce, which means that in today’s world there is legislation in terms of packaging, and information on pack, which they have to adhere to, trading standards and all the rest of it. I would like to be able to offer the opportunity for people to sell their product to consumers in a professional environment, and to use us a sort of foothold on the commercial market, which means I’m very happy to sit down with them and help them.
The classic I’ve encountered, mentioning no names, is where there is a huge amount of passion and the product will arrive and I say, “This is my great product,” and I say, “It’s lovely,” and then we start to talk about for example the money. I say, “Well how much are you selling it for?” “Well, when I have a little market stall I sell it for £5,” and I say, “That’s great, how much are you going to sell it to me for?” You can see they’re looking at me thinking, “So what…? I’m not going to sell it to you for £5?” [Laughs] I’m not being disingenuous, if I can help I will, sometimes we will reach the conclusion they’re better off selling it in the market.
Catherine Moran: Staying in the market, certainly for the moment, the farmers’ market, certainly for the moment, anyway?
Edward Berry: Those who’ve got to the next stage, and where the product is good, I think it’s a nice thing to do. It’s got to be good. I’m not doing this just off-hand.
Catherine Moran: You would therefore say you’re looking for a story, a genuine, authentic story, something that tastes good and probably looks good in terms of packaging, which I want to ask you about in a second. Let’s say you’ve listed somebody’s product, what do you then expect from them? How do you expect them to conduct their business with you?
Edward Berry: It tends to depend on the people. In an ideal world we do ask for some support, and you’ll have seen when we went downstairs there was somebody doing in-store tasting. There was a cheese producer that was there. So definitely, we would like people to support us, so be here on an occasion. We’re not asking people the whole time because we have a lot of suppliers and we don’t have that much space. I wouldn’t ask everyone to turn up all the time, but as a little bit of support, as they grow their businesses, then we would ask them if they want us to promote, which means giving a better shelf position, an opportunity to do a 2 for 1, do that sort of thing. Then I would say that we would like them to join the party on that. If they can’t, they can’t.
We’re not so hard-nosed that we won’t help their sales, but certainly taking part. We have various occasions where we have our open days where we’ll put our tent up and we’ll have a producer’s marquee and we’d expect, we would like them to come and promote and be a part of their own brand, but that’s it really. We’re not asking a huge amount of them. If I’m going to be honest I’d like them to sell it to us so we can make some money, that’s what we’re here to do. I’d like them to be consistent in the quality of the product. I’d like them to deliver what they say they’re going to deliver. There are certain requirements, which don’t always materialise, particularly with those who maybe get caught out either sales or ahead of what their expectations are.
Catherine Moran: You’re asking people to be business-like, that’s really what it boils down to aren’t you?
Edward Berry: It is, it is. As I said I think if the earlier stage then you can perhaps learn your trade through a market stall. Interestingly, many years ago I met a chap called James Averdieck who started a business called Gu. Now, there was absolutely nothing artisan in his way of approaching this business at all. He knew exactly what he wanted to do, which was to get into the supermarkets and fill it with his chocolate puddings. He had found a business partner, he found a producer, that’s what he did. He wasn’t going to try, he wasn’t going to be at… What he did was create the story around the brand, the slightly quirky nature of the name, and I respect that, but these are not the people I’m talking to.
They’re approaching it from a position of, “Can I make it myself?” and that sort of thing. I think I’m very keen to support that, but it’s got to be professional enough for us as a requisite. Rest assured, if people don’t like the product, the first place they’ll come back to is the person who sold it to him.
Catherine Moran: Yes, back to you. Without being too negative here, but this is the real world. This is real business we’re talking about. Is there anything… or what would lead you to de-list a food or drink product, and in fact have you done it?
Edward Berry: We do it constantly. We probably do it more often because of shelf space. The shelves don’t get bigger. The shelves are what they are, so if something comes in, something’s probably got to go out. That’s a natural evolution. I’m certainly not going to throw it out if it’s doing well, so the first reason to de-list is if something isn’t selling. Now that could be for reasons of price, it could just be the wrong product for this market. It could be that the quality is not good and that would be my second question. Is there is a change in the quality or some issue on quality that we’re not happy with. We’ve had to be a little bit tougher recently because of legislation on packaging, and we’ve had to say, if people can’t, they can’t achieve what’s been required by Government, then we’re not really in a position to sell them.
Catherine Moran: That would put you legally in a difficult situation wouldn’t it?
Edward Berry: It would. It would. I think we… New products coming in are inevitably going to need some shelf space. We might put … These are seasonal things, it doesn’t… It’s not everything in or everything out, and particularly when producers maybe are adding to their range, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to take everything. Maybe they’ll be a replacement one in one out, that sort of thing.
Catherine Moran: Right.
Edward Berry: I would also challenge people who come to us, I think they’ve got to decide where they want to pitch their business, and I can see the attraction of seeking sales through the supermarkets because it will give them the volume, but then don’t really expect us to stick with it, because that loses a point of interest for us. It’s very difficult, we probably haven’t got the pricing in the same level as them. If I come in here I find it’s full of supermarket brands, why would I want to come here in the first place? I want this to be a bit of a discovery for them. I’d like to find them things, that they can’t find on supermarket shelves. That being said, we’re dabbling with the idea of having a sort of must list, must stock section which are almost slightly heritage brands which might include Coleman’s Mustard in a powder form, but that’s just something we’re thinking about.
Catherine Moran: Right, right. What should artisan food or drink companies never say to a buyer?
Edward Berry: There’s nothing you can’t say. Don’t tell a lie, if you can’t match… don’t lie about the provenance, don’t sell us something you can’t, that isn’t sustainable and you can get it wrong. I mean, we’ve had many suppliers who for reasons I can only guess have stopped production. They possibly couldn’t keep up with demand, or they couldn’t meet the sales, or they actually realised the business was flawed, just couldn’t make any money. To be aware of promises you can’t keep or to be aware of telling lies, but I don’t think there’s anything… If you’re a natural sales person, then you got a commitment to your product, you feel strongly about it so you’ll do what you can.
Catherine Moran: Sure, to make it work. I got to put you on the spot here now, I don’t know how you feel about answering this question but which artisan food or drink companies do you most admire and why?
Edward Berry: Well, obviously the one I most admire is ourselves, yes what we sell. [Laughs]
Catherine Moran: [Laughs] That’s understandable.
Edward Berry: If you’re going to put us in the category of food and drink producers we certainly produce plenty of food. We have some very good producers locally here, and I think they’re a few who I’ve seen. It’s been a combination of product and certainly that dreaded word marketing, how they promote themselves and …
For example Hobson’s is a brewery in Cleobury Mortimer, which is 15/20 minutes from us, and we have a plethora of these craft beers. Well they’re all over the country, but we’ve certainly got our fair share here and I’m keen to support them. I would say Hobson’s is probably the sharpest on its feet when it comes to… I mean sharp in a nice way there.
They’ve got an amusing brand, they’re quite innovative, they’re quite imaginative, and they certainly present themselves as a very professional organisation, and that gets my respect. I think there could be a tendency, and I’m not merely talking about brewers, but for someone to make a product and then say, “Well there you are.” I experienced this in wine for many years in France. “I make my wine that’s it. You’re going to take it aren’t you?” I think I like some imagination and some marketing behind. We’ve got a very nice brand called Asiri and this is a sauce company, a lady called Asiri Hall, I think she’s originally from Sri Lanka.
She is a very hardworking lady. She does sell to supermarkets, but she sells some other brands and she does work for them, but she’s got a real passion and a liveliness. Her product is very good. I’d say she’s another one whose products I enjoy.
Catherine Moran: That’s fascinating. Asiri was on the podcast actually and she loves selling her products here, and she does a lot of tastings.
Edward Berry: Yes. I suppose I’m assessing them by their activities as much as I am by product.
Catherine Moran: It’s interesting. It’s a mutual support thing really isn’t it? You have to help each other I think. Let’s move on very quickly to marketing because you seem to me to really understand the value of marketing, and I’m wondering what your approach to marketing the Ludlow Food Centre is.
Edward Berry: Well, we have a very lively and active marketing plan. It’s an interesting one when you are… If you’re selling a product in the big bad world, you need to find your customers in a particular way, but retail is different. You want people to come to you, so you’ve got 2 levels of marketing. One is the bit that brings them here, but there’s the secondary one, which is what they do when they are here, and to us that’s equally important. We do the first bit, how do we get people to come here, what’s our marketing driver? Obviously PR is important to us, and we sort of split that between what I call local and national. If I was going to be grand, I’d say international, but local is really important to us.
We have an agency we work with, we work very closely also with the local press who do know us. They know as well, so if there’s a good story we’ll feed it to them, and we conduct interviews with them and they come and take photographs, and that’s a lively on–going part. Bear in mind that even if I said that, as I do today about 40% of our customers are visiting us for the first time, which means they’re coming to visit us from a distance. When they’re not here the people I want to come as frequently as possible are our local people, and I think if they continue to see that there’s something lively and exciting going on at the Ludlow Food Centre, whether it’s a new cheese or an award, that hopefully endorses it.
We’ve also have entered into a number of interesting exercises here, for example food waste has become quite front of mind for many people, and we are trying to avoid or to reduce our food waste, and which we’re doing quite successfully. It’s also now most of it is going to a bio digester so this means effectively turned to fuel, but it’s being turned to fuel from a waste product. It’s not being grown to be turned into fuel, and I think that’s a good thing. We do use our awards, we think awards are good, we enter many awards and we’ve been lucky enough to win many awards. I think there’s a point at which someone’s got to say, “Gosh, they’ve won some awards, it must be okay.” It’s not just us saying that.
Catherine Moran: Absolutely, there’s something going on here, something good going on here.
Edward Berry: Awards are in the marketing mix. The overviewing part of it is to create a brand and brand building takes a lot of time. It’s very hard to define what a brand is, but we believe that it’s … For me it’s recognising a name, it’s recognising the name for what it stands for and what it is. Yes, it includes a logo, and we are working on developing our brand here so that we’re recognizable within our category, and that we’re known for being food producers of excellence. It’s brand and associated activities within the brand. Then we’re working on what you do when you’re here, we got the Ludlow Food Centre. We have our large cafe with is called the Ludlow Kitchen. We have The Clive which is a small boutique hotel, and we have The Ludlow Pantry.
So, how do we bring these all together so that when you’re … It’s a marketing exercise if you check into The Clive and you’re in your nice bedroom. I want you to know that you’re in a place that’s also linked to the Ludlow Food Centre because that means you’re in something special rather than just a road side-inn, because you see that the menu is food from across the road. That you can go and buy a pork pie that was made by the people there, and the bacon at your breakfast. It’s a subtle gentle message. Some people have no interest in that, but if they do, then I want to make sure that they get that. We use various other methods hopefully to ensure that people shop with us, we’ve got our loyalty card, which again is part of our marketing mix.
It’s not particularly clever, but it’s you win points for pounds and hopefully you come back. Gives us some data on who you are and what you buy. We’re not particularly clever with it, we’re feeling our way, and then we also have email messaging. We communicate with our customers on a regular basis, offers, information and then of course we move into the… This is the next bit, which is social media.
Catherine Moran: Indeed, yes, yes. What are your feelings about social media?
Edward Berry: Well, as a man in his 50s I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into this one. Luckily we have a nice young team who are perhaps a bit more in that zone, and I’ve certainly been persuaded that it is a worthwhile exercise. We have Twitter accounts and we have very nice messages going out, hopefully not messages “I got up in the morning and I brushed my teeth.” We’ve got nice photographs of food being produced, messages that people can re-tweet, obviously awards, what’s cooking today, the sun’s out. It’s gentle, gentle, because, rest assured, there are stories here every day. We’ve taken a brief tour around the shop. We could have walked into any of the departments, you spoke briefly to Darren about what he was making today. We could do that every single day, 365 days of the year. I could tell you what people are making, so we’re not short of stories.
Catherine Moran: It’s perfect, really, for getting your story out isn’t it? The whole social media thing whether it’s Instagram or Pinterest or Twitter or who knows what, use of video as well. I’m sure you’re using it very imaginatively.
Edward Berry: Well, we’re using it. As I say it’s a start, definitely. You have 5,600 followers on Twitter I’m told.
Catherine Moran: Wow that’s pretty impressive!
Edward Berry: I don’t know if it is that. [Laughs]
Catherine Moran: [Laughs] That’s good going. Talking about, we’re still on the subject of marketing, and could we just briefly talk about product packaging, because of course, it’s incredibly important. What do you think… what’s your perspective on product packaging?
Edward Berry: Well, as again, going back to what I said earlier on about us, the most important producer for us being ourselves, we did a complete re-brand 2 or 3 years ago. We looked at packaging of our own product in great detail, and we came up with some solutions to what we’re looking for, messaging, images, trying to convey on the one hand that we’re not a rough and ready sort of little deli just knocking things up, but at the same time we’re very close to our roots. We’ve got images of cows and pigs. I know it’s not particularly imaginative but it’s fairly straightforward. We’ve also used stories about people, and I think that’s one of the best things we can do, again referring to Darren who you met earlier on. We can talk about these people, we can have their tasting notes.
We can give it a genuine “people story”, and I think I quite enjoy that.
Beyond that when it comes to packaging obviously it’s got to be eye-catching, I think honest. Packaging is all over the place. If you go to the Far East you will find what we would consider to be completely over the top, bright reds, yellows, greens. I think packaging has got to be designed for the market in which the product is destined to be sold, which is why it’s quite an interesting exercise for the products that have a global perspective, to come up with, and we all know there are plenty of stories where they’ve chosen a name which means one thing to one person, and something completely different to another in another language.
I’ve done, over the years, I’ve been involved in package design and using agencies. I think the most important thing is you want to communicate to the customer what it is, and I think if you can find simple ways, because as we know attention is limited.
Catherine Moran: Yeah. Literally seconds.
Edward Berry: Yeah. There are highly sophisticated organisations who will drive you to use certain colors and mixes of colors and names. I had an interesting conversation with some people the other day, and they were looking to develop a new gin, as it happens. The packaging and the name were far more important than the product. That was they’d started from whereas in today’s gin world, lots of talk about crafted gins, and botanicals and the flavour. That was going to be secondary; they were going to develop that on the back of whatever conclusions they’d come to.
Catherine Moran: Were they aware of this?
Edward Berry: This is what they had done, what they had set out to do, and they were professionals but it’s quite an interesting way. It’s a touch cynical possibly, whereas I feel… and I think that’s where helping these honest producers who got the product first and then they want to package is interesting.
Catherine Moran: Packaging is very expensive, certainly the initial outlay for the design, and then the initial print runs for say a cardboard box or whatever the product is going to be packaged in, but I think it’s just so fundamental to get a very high standard of packaging up and running from the beginning, but it’s the dilemma of the cost of it for small producers. It’s really tough.
Edward Berry: It is tough and we found recently that the additional legislation on allergens has really caught people, and then there’s another level which is coming in which is to do with nutritional information. Although I had a note through yesterday that they’re looking for clarification because the EU [European Union] have not determined what certain parameters are such as sizes of business and what local means within the context of how much information will have to be provided. It’s been very difficult, and the problem is you end with a small jar with actually nothing, telling you nothing about the name of the product or what it tastes like, just a list of ingredients, and caveats for those buyers as to what they might suffer as a result.
Catherine Moran: A list of legal requirements. Your advice… let’s consider your advice for people thinking of taking the plunge and setting up an artisan food or drink business. What 3 things should they absolutely do, do you think?
Edward Berry: Well the honest truth is you could find this information on the internet, in books, there are business guides all over the place and I don’t think any of them really change. I love the idea, people have the passion, I love that there’s the book out there which is, So You Want To Run A Deli and it starts with a love of food and all of that. That’s great because that’s what’s going to sustain you through the long days and will keep your passion. However, if you haven’t got a plan, and I mean a true sound business plan, then you’ve got nowhere to start. Obviously a plan is only as good as the business that it is describing.
So, if you’ve decided to build a business plan where your driver is either how much you think your customers are going to spend, or how many people are going to come in through your front door, they could both disappear. It’s guesswork, but you should know your business. You should understand your business. I think that people who get in who perhaps don’t have business degrees or business experience, you need a friend, that friend could be a business angel, someone who helps you, guides you through, because the sad thing is when those … and they’ll give you some health checks and some reality checks during the process of setting the business up.
Cash is key, and no one running a business is not going to tell you, you need to get your cash flow, know how it works.
This is not about profit even, it’s about cash flow. Yes, your profit comes at the end, but if you haven’t got enough money to sustain, to pay your bills, to buy product, then you’ve got nothing, you will die a death very soon.
I think research is good; you need to do your feasibilities, know your market, foot fall. If you park a small shop in the middle of a field no one’s going to find it. Make sure you’ve got… You can build yourself a destination, I don’t say that isn’t possible, but you need to make sure that people are going to find you. Those are really the 3 you could go on. You need to be prepared for hard work, but generally I think the people that I’ve known who’ve opened these businesses that’s not been the problem because they do enjoy being there, they enjoy the pleasure, they enjoy… You got to like people.
It’s very sad to see that ones that don’t work where you think probably it could have worked. I think they’ve run out of steam, but if they run out of money, if the location’s wrong then can’t help you, really. Obviously product, know what your customers want. We made plenty of mistakes here. Luckily they weren’t so intrinsic to the business that we didn’t turn direction, but we’ve introduced new products thinking people will want them and they didn’t want them. Well, get out then, don’t force it. Make sure you know what your customers want. You can introduce some things they might not have known that they want, but that’s quite tough, too…
Catherine Moran: What about 3 things then that they should absolutely avoid doing, artisan food or drink businesses?
Edward Berry: Well, I think there are all tied into the pluses if you like.
Catherine Moran: Yes, actually it’s a mirror image isn’t it?
Edward Berry: If you’ve done enough finance then the thing not to have is not have enough money. If you haven’t done enough… if your business plan is not water tight, know what your break even is. Literally on a day to day basis say, “I need to take this amount of money every day as an average because I’ve got my rent to pay, I’ve got to pay my staff, I’ve got the VAT payments to make out of this, so this money isn’t all mine.” All of those things, work your margin, understand that I’ve got to take £200 a day, £1,000 a day, whatever it is, and you’ll soon know whether you think that’s doable.
Catherine Moran: It’s a fundamental figure the break even, as well as the margin.
Edward Berry: Well one delivers the other, so if you think you can sell, if you want to buy a tin for a pound, if you think you can sell it for £2, well that’s great, you got a 50% margin. It’s more than most of us make. The food industry doesn’t have big margins. Yes, we’ve got what we call gross margin. If you’re at a restaurant a gross margin is going to be something like 70%. However, that is just the cost of the fillet steak and the prices that’s it’s been sold at. What about the person who made it, what about the heating and light of the restaurant that people are sitting in et cetera, et cetera. It’s not a high… net margin on a retail business is probably 10%.
Catherine Moran: Wow that low? That’s phenomenal.
Edward Berry: Obviously there are businesses, clothing works on much higher margins, and you’ve got … Make sure you know what you can sell and the price at which you can sell it, which may be a location issue.
Catherine Moran: Sure.
Edward Berry: They say, “What price should I sell something?” Well sell it at the highest price that you think you can get.
Catherine Moran: Then potentially work back from that if you need to. What do you think the future of the market looks like for artisan food and drink products, artisan food and drink producers?
Edward Berry: That’s a complex one, that’s a whole subject of conversation in itself. I want to think there’s a real opportunity. We do know obviously that when we look at the statistics on where people in this country buy their food, that it’s heavily dominated by half a dozen well-known names who are sharp, they are well located, they hang onto you. They’ve stolen all of our words, they’re using words like “local” and “market” and “artisan” and “craft” and “handmade”. They made life quite difficult for us. They have their downfalls. The “horsegate” thing, we’ve got issues with Tesco. We’ll know they’ll be there. They’ll be there and they’ve got very experienced people working to ensure that they’re going to be there.
They can play the margin game, they can encourage their suppliers to charge them less money so they can make more money. They can delay their payments. They’ve got all the toys that they need to make it work. However, I do think that there are some strong messages coming from British consumers who are more interested in where food comes from. Yes, there’s a food mile issue, if you like, and I think there should be a pride in buying local. I think it’s almost like putting a fancy bottle of wine on the table and since it says the right thing about you, or I carry the right handbag, the right brand, I think people should use local as a very strong message to their… [Phone rings]
Catherine Moran: That’s all right.
Edward Berry: Farm shops are growing. There are about 5,000 farm shops in this country, and they’re an opportunity. I think they’re growing. Farmer’s Markets I’m not sure, if that’s having such a good time, but delis and independent food retailers, in the right location, I think there’s a genuine interest, but they’ve got to do something the supermarkets can’t do. That’s the point, whether it’s individual customer service, carrying products that others don’t have, customer service, personal service. The supermarkets don’t really want to have, I’m told, butchery counters. They want pre-pack is what’s it’s all about.
Catherine Moran: Not proper…
Edward Berry: They don’t want you hanging around. They don’t want us to have hours of conversation. I want hours of conversation downstairs because that’s what you won’t get from them. I want John to be chatting to you about cuts of meat, how to cook them, and building a relationship with you because that’s what will bring you back. It’s that confidence, you went away, you had a delicious piece of meat, served to you by someone who’s clearly knowledgeable and job done. I think there are opportunities. I think there is plenty of scope, plenty of scope, but it’s not all easy.
Catherine Moran: To close our discussion Edward, you actually are on the verge of launching a new venture. Would you be happy to say a few words about that to describe it and to talk about the services you plan to offer?
Edward Berry: Sure, I described at the beginning of our chat my little journey, it’s a 35-year journey through the restaurants and vineyards of the world and food shops.
Catherine Moran: Champagne houses are wonderful!
Edward Berry: It’s been an exciting journey and I’ve got plenty of energy, but what I would like to do is step back from day-to-day management of a business with all of that goes with that which is personal management, dealing with floods and fires and equipment and all those sorts of things, and actually focus on applying my experiences and knowledge to other businesses, in other people’s businesses, which might be anything from a deli that needs a little help, could be as basic as, “Look I don’t know anything about wine can you help me put together the wine list? “I don’t know anything about tea or coffee or cheese. I’ve gone into this thing because I think it’s a nice idea but can you help me?”
That sort of help or looking at the business as the business, “it’s not quite where I was going to be. We’re not far off the break even, but we’re not making enough money. Could we move in that direction?” I’d say “We’ll look at the business, look at it in paper, visit the place out of hours, in hours. Who’s going past, look at the people.” Then it might be a simple solution, “Let’s put a coffee machine here,” or actually you’ve got shelves full of very nice delicious looking jars but that’s never going to be your business. Your business has got to be the fresh food. That’s your driver. People buy one jar of marmalade every X months, but they’re going to buy a nice piece fresh cheese, whatever, once a week.
Make sure you’ve got your drivers in the right place. Is it your pricing, does the place look dull? Have you got terrible staff? We’ll do a mystery shop. I think the whole, sort of audit, I’d like to do that. I’m also interested in quite big projects, because that’s something I had some experience in. If there was a farmer looking to do a feasibility on a farm shop…
Catherine Moran: A new farm shop?
Edward Berry: New start-up. I like the idea of that. I’ve done a lot of… I’ve done planning applications, grant funding, feasibility, access, the whole package. I think that would be very exciting.
I’d also like to talk to some producers who’ve got products and they want some help getting into market. You’re better off spending a few quid with me than going down the slippery slope and getting it all wrong and finding yourself with a lot of product. We’ve had quite a number of products here, and we’ve taken them on because we thought they were good, but if I’ve had reservations it’s sometimes comes back and I’ve been confirmed right. Product was just not quite right, the price was wrong. That’s the sort of thing. That’s the sort of thing, but it’s genuinely, I genuinely would like to be putting a bit more back into it. Yes, I want to earn some money, but the priority would be to benefit some clients…
Catherine Moran: All right wonderful.
Edward Berry: …and be in a position to help them along.
Catherine Moran: Have you got a name for your new venture yet?
Edward Berry: I’m calling it the Flying Fork.
Catherine Moran: Oh how wonderful, the Flying Fork, wonderful.
Edward Berry: The Flying Fork could be me, it could be a group of people. For the time being, it’s a little fledgling business that’s going to be talking to people in various places. I do a little bit of public speaking. I have already got a number of people who’ve come to me with some ideas. Someone who’s got an interesting in product she wants to take to market. I’m seeing someone in 2 weeks’ time who is running a small shop and wants a little bit of advice. That’s the sort of thing, and then I’ve got quite large ones sitting out there, but it’s all early days. I’m still here, I’m still at Ludlow Food Centre, I’m still running the Ludlow Food Centre, and we’re heading into our busy period. Christmas is coming up, which is always exciting here. There’s always a good atmosphere, there’s a certain amount of tension as you can imagine. Christmas requires a bit of patience on both sides, but it’s undeniably an exciting place to be in our shop.
Catherine Moran: Edward, you will of course have an online presence for your new venture. When will you … Do you visage having set that up, your new venture the Flying Fork?
Edward Berry: This will be probably February/March of 2016. I’m here until middle of January next year.
Catherine Moran: Oh, okay, okay.
Edward Berry: I want to commit myself to this until then, and then there’s a little break, and then…
Catherine Moran: Full steam ahead.
Edward Berry: Full steam ahead, absolutely.
Catherine Moran: Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it, and it was a real treat being taken around the Ludlow Food Centre shop floor by none other than the Managing Director himself. Thank you again Edward.
Edward Berry: Well, thank you for coming to see us.
Catherine Moran: It’s a pleasure.
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Edward Berry. Don’t forget that you can get in touch with him at www.theflyingfork.co.uk. .
All links mentioned in the show are available on my website, which is myartisanbusiness.com. You can download a free transcript of the show there.
To get updates on when I publish new episodes of the show, subscribe to my email list at myartisanbusiness.com and I’ll let you know when new episodes are live.
If you’re enjoying the show, would you please leave me a review on iTunes? I’d appreciate that very much and of course I’d welcome your feedback. Thank you.
That’s all for now. You can find me on Twitter as @FoodDrinkShow so please do get in touch if you have any comments or questions.
Until next time, I’m Catherine Moran, happy cooking, happy brewing, happy fermenting, and thank you for listening.