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Back to our roots

In 1993, we packed our first 30 muddy, rudimentary veg boxes on the barn floor. My founding and enduring assumption was that all of you cooked and lived a bit like me, and thought that choice was overrated; dubious assumptions, which have become only more dubious over time. But following our beliefs rather than fickle consumer fashions made us stand out, and allowed us to stick to what we did well.

Since the last recession, we have had to work harder to gain and keep customers. Mostly, becoming more customer focused has been a good thing. But it seemed to make commercial and environmental sense, since we were coming to your door anyway, to sell a wider range: first stretching the seasons with more imported fruit and veg, then adding milk and meat, and finally drinks, pasta, peanut butter. Our range grew to about 250 products; less than one per cent of most supermarket ranges, but enough to introduce lots of complexity, and arguably for us to lose our focus.

As Covid-19 struck, we could only cope with social distancing, reduced staff numbers and increased demand from loyal customers by drastically reducing our range. We focused on veg boxes, plus a few extra items.

Despite being brought about by necessity, streamlining the range felt right – and at least initially, most of you seemed happy that we had stepped back 20 years. A few of us took time out to listen to customers, co-owners and suppliers, and re-evaluate our direction. It was easy to come to a decision. 

Fruit and veg is what we do best, and what most of you seem to want from us. Our focus will remain on set veg boxes (which offer the best value overall) – but we have heard customer feedback, and are adding more flexibility and choice. The fruit and veg range will grow each week; by the end of August, there will be enough choice that if you prefer, you can build your own box from scratch.

Across the range, there will be greater emphasis on seasonality, localness, flavour, and sourcing from our own farm and farmers we know and trust. This added focus will allow us to be the best at what we do, leaving others to be the best at what they do; we have no aspirations to become an online supermarket.

We will continue to sell eggs, bread, meat and some dairy, with rare forays outside this core range when suppliers have something exceptional. There will also be some anomalies over the coming months, as we honour commitments to suppliers and clear some stock.   

Comments

widdy

1 Month 2 Weeks

You are doing a brilliant job... focus on those veg boxes...that’s what I love. As well as your meat and dairy produce...a few extras to top up the boxes are good to have. But don’t broaden too much...

0 Reply

Debsrhoades

1 Month 2 Weeks

Totally agree with the back to your roots approach but please broaden the range of breads to include more traditional grains that are not wheat! The spelt sourdough hat was readily available before COVID was truly exceptional and definitely deserves a place on your offerings. PLEASE PLEASE bring it back!!

1 Reply

view replies

Comments Editor

1 Month 1 Week

Hi Debs thanks for your comments which I will share. Just so you know, Wicked Leeks is published by Riverford but if you need to give direct feedback or want any help with your orders, you'd need to contact Customer Services at help@riverford.co.uk.

0 Reply

Guy Singh-Watson

Self-confessed veg nerd, Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 55,000 customers a week. Guy is an opinionated and admired figure in the world of organic farming, who still spends more time in the fields than in the boardroom. Twice awarded BBC Radio 4 Farmer of the Year, Guy is passionate about sharing with others the organic farming and business knowledge he has accumulated over the last three decades. His weekly veg box newsletters connect customers to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about. In June 2018, Guy handed over the reins of Riverford to its staff, choosing employee ownership as the model that will protect Riverford's ethical values forever and ensure the security of its employees.

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