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‘Down on our knees’: Food businesses react to energy rises

Food businesses face an existential threat as energy costs soar and consumers tighten belts, while the government shows no sign of support.

Restaurant owners, butchers, farmers and food businesses nationwide are facing dramatic increases in energy costs as prices increase as much as 400 per cent in some cases. 

The average energy bill for households will rise by 80 per cent under the new price cap increase, but businesses are not protected by this so will have to buy energy on the wholesale market at much higher rates. 

It’s the perfect storm as consumers also face a cost-of-living crisis with less disposable income available and the government are offering little in the way of support.

You have to decide if you want to operate at all. Jock Gibson, farmer and butcher

Livestock farmer and butchery owner in Moray, Scotland, Jock Gibson said his energy costs are set to increase by as much as 400 per cent in October. 

“Where do you find an extra £24,000?” asked Gibson explaining how his energy bills are due to rise from £8000 to £32,000. “It’s going to be savage. Businesses will have some stark decisions to make.

“It’s not a situation where you can increase the value of your product because people have less money,” he added. “Your other option is to make savings but with the year we’ve had if you haven’t made all the savings you can, what are you playing at?” 

“The last option is to decide if you want to operate at all,” said Gibson. 

Small butchers like Gibson’s closing could have serious implications for small sustainable livestock farmers everywhere. 

“If we start to lose the butchers, we risk losing the crofters (small-scale farmers in the Scottish highlands), the rare breed enthusiasts and the smallholders.” 

Trying to remain competitive is a real challenge. Luke King, technical and supply director at organic veg box company Riverford

Technical and supply director at organic veg box company, Riverford, Luke King reported that the increase in energy costs is affecting all departments of the business. 

“Energy is a real problem because we’re exposed everywhere. Our foreign and UK suppliers are exposed, our logistics, particularly our refrigeration, are exposed, plus our office.

“Then you consider all the other inflationary pressures such as labour wages because we’re committed to the real living wage as a business,” said King. 

“All the time we’re trying to keep a lid on our pricing, but trying to remain competitive is a real challenge,” added King. 

“The electrification of our vehicle fleet and the fact we generate a lot of solar energy means we’re in a slightly better situation.” 

We are down on our knees. Harriet Mansell, chef-owner of Robin Wylde and Lilac

Hospitality is another sector being punished by the rise of energy costs alongside citizens feeling the effect of the cost-of-living crisis. 

Harriet Mansell, chef-owner of two restaurants in Lyme Regis, Robin Wylde and Lilac, which have a focus on locally foraged ingredients, said, “We are down on our knees, all our costs have gone up and we can’t increase prices because customers won’t come in.” 

“Margins were already tight in hospitality,” said Mansell. “We’ve done everything we can from a business point of view, the model does not work anymore.” 

“It’s petrifying.

“We do so much for education and training, I employ 20 people in the local area, and as a business, we’ve always tried to be a force for positive change,” said Mansell explaining she will try everything, but she does not know what the future holds. 

It’s impossible. Lisa-Jane Fraser, owner of eco-estate, Frasers

Lisa-Jane Fraser, owner of an eco-estate in Kent, Frasers, that comprises of a farm, a wedding venue and a restaurant, is considering closing her restaurant, despite taking extreme measures and producing over 60 per cent of their own energy through renewable energy. 

“Once my solar panels are not working so efficiently (due to the reduced sunlight in autumn and winter), I’ll only open four days a week and I’m going to cook overnight to take advantage of the lower rate tariffs,” said Fraser. 

“I can’t even get a quote for my energy bill at the moment, but it could be up to £7000 from £1800 last year.” 

“I’m doing what I’ve been asked to do, but it’s impossible. It’s the unknown, you can’t even do flow projections,” added Fraser. “I think I will move away from restaurants and focus on events.”

Fraser said the hospitality sector desperately needs government support and should reduce VAT for the industry as it would reduce costs for restauranteurs and prices for consumers. 

“It would make a massive difference,” said Fraser. 

The government need to get real about climate Abby Allen, director of meat box company, Pipers Farm

Director of sustainable meat box company Pipers Farm, Abby Allen said, “We’re lucky to have the model we do, producing meat from grass (requiring little energy), but we have a fulfilment centre and butchery where our energy costs have doubled.”

“That’s the difficulty; how much can you pass onto the consumer because we want to make sustainable, organic food more accessible,” Allen said.

“It’s the most challenging time we’ve ever had as a business,” added Allen.

On what the government need to do: “They need to get real about climate,” said Allen.

“There has been a sheer lack of investment in renewable energy. If we don’t want to be held hostage, we need to be energy self-sufficient,” finished Allen.

Click here to find out the extreme measures farmers are taking to reduce their energy costs.


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  1. We have a small sandwich shop in North Yorkshire and it just feels like we’re constantly in fight mode at the moment.
    Costs constantly going up and the cost of living crisis along with the commercial energy cost surge – feels like we’ll be out of business quite soon. Utterly depressing…..

    1. Is it noticeable that fewer people are coming into eat Jude?
      What are you trying to reduce costs and get more people in? Although I can imagine it must feel like the system is rigged and there’s not much you can do? Like in the pandemic, should we implore people to shop with local businesses where they can?

  2. Just want to send my sympathy to all the producers and people including Judenamibia that face such awful situations. We [retired] try to eat at local indie cafes as much as possible but have just doubled our home energy sub to £150 a month to disabled daughter and her low waged fiance. The housing association have just spent many thousands replacing perfectly sound roofs and replacing tired but perfectly serviceable kitchens on the whole street. Yet they haven’t increased standard loft insulation while they had the roof off nor insulated the solid walls or floors. I’m struggling for words [extremely bad for me!] to describe how mad this is. And our daughter’s bungalow is on the end so has a huge gable wall, so easy to retrofit with the polystyrene blocks with no windows to fiddle round.
    We tried the last ‘grant scheme’ to get some renewables fitted but it was a complete con, they didn’t pay the few companies that ventured into it for so long they nearly bankrupted them; so none would do any of the work for us. Days after we involved the MP, his party pulled the scheme. Much fanfare of it opening, but closing it slid under the carpet. Huh. Greenwash.
    For anyone who can afford it we cannot recommend Superfoil too highly. [No financial or other interest in this] It is easy to staple to rafters for a retrofit and clean/ non irritant. Also kept excess heat out wonderfully in the heatwave which rockwool does not do.

  3. Government sanctions have been the main cause of the energy crisis. Inflation has been caused by their money printing during the past few years – the country is bankrupt and the polititians know it. This is all orchestrated so that they can step forward to a global solution and ‘re-set’ everything. They will offer to wipe out all debts, put everyone on a universal income stipend and bring in a centralised digital banking system. If you think this is a good idea, look at what happened in Canada last year when Justin Trudeau froze and siezed the bank accounts of people who supported the truckers convoy – a peaceful protest.
    This is not a conspiry theory – it is all out there for people to read for themselves

    By 2030 ”You will own nothing and you will be happy” Klaus Shwabb WEF

    1. So you wouldn’t say the main cause is the conflict in Ukraine driving up the cost of global energy prices due to a shortfall in gas?

      Also, what’s wrong with universal basic income?


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