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.