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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

7 Months 1 Week

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

7 Months

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

6 Months 4 Weeks

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.

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Guy Singh-Watson

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 80,000 customers a week. Tired of meetings, brands and the assumption that greed is our predominant motivation, Guy converted the business to employee ownership in 2018, using the proceeds to buy a small farm and return to growing organic vegetables. In common with many of Riverford’s new co-owners, Guy is an advocate of using business to shape a part of the world, however small, to be kinder, more considerate and sustainable; more like the world most of us want to live in.  His weekly newsletters connect people 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.

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