New era for regional food sales and distribution

A one-stop ordering and delivery service for Shropshire’s speciality produce sector has been launched by the region's food champion.

Food producers and their customers will be seamlessly linked by the new offering from HEART of ENGLAND fine foods (HEFF), giving smaller businesses otherwise unthinkable reach into a huge potential marketplace.

HEFF has built on years of experience in creating opportunities between food producers and their buyers to tailor its new service which features: hand-picked delivery agents; the unveiling of an online catalogue and ordering system; the capability to order from a smartphone or tablet; a new ability to hold non-perishable items in stock; and the opportunity to target niche markets.

Food buyers for retail stores and caterers can now choose from a huge range of products from Shropshire and across the Midlands, order them in one place and receive one delivery and one invoice, smoothing the process for all parties.

It's the first time HEFF has created its own delivery service rather than partnering with a logistics firm, but HEFF chief executive, Karen Davies MBE, explained that experience has demonstrated it to be the best way forward.

She said: “We have created relationships between our food producer members and buyers which have been the catalyst for the growth and expansion of many businesses.

“Historically we've led the way on one order, one delivery, one invoice approaches to selling regional food, but the weakest point was always the physical part of the process, actually getting the produce to where it needed to be. Now we've solved that in a way that compliments the products and the producers themselves, by investing in our own service, operated to our own high standards.

“We have very carefully recruited delivery agents based not on their ability to drive a van, but on their personal qualities, their enthusiasm and their appreciation of the care and attention that has gone into the items they will be moving around the region. They're excited to build relationships with producers, buyers, store managers and everyone in the chain as much as we are keen for them to do so and that bodes really well!”

In another first for HEFF and its members, the huge catalogue of fine foods from across the region is going online, allowing for more regularly refreshed and up-to-date listings and a better showcase of the goods than a paper or spreadsheet-based approach could provide. Buyers will now be able to place their centralised orders without even picking up the phone.

Food producers will receive their orders weekly from the HEFF Delivery Service and drop their produce at one of seven regional hubs, including two in Shropshire (one in Ludlow, another in Newport), from where the dedicated vehicles will collect it for scheduled delivery runs.

Mrs Davies added: “Taking the logistics in-house is a big deal for us and for our members and we're all excited about it. Buyers from some of the biggest names in retail, including Selfridges, Costcutter and Nisa, as well as mass caterers, appreciate this approach to accessing the products of our members, especially as they know that to be a member a food producer has to be fully accredited by us across all areas of their business, including for food safety. Now we have all of the pieces in place, this new service is in a position to go from strength-to-strength.”

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