As a food writer as well as a PR, I knew all too well the effects that the coronavirus pandemic have had on Britain’s artisan cheese industry.
With restaurants and pubs closed, cheesemakers were left with huge amounts of cheese and milk literally going to waste, and seeing their businesses face disaster.
A couple of months into lockdown, I was approached by Bath Soft Cheese Co. to help spread the word about how they had changed the way they do things to try to survive, switching to a thriving online business.
Like hundreds of other small cheesemakers in Britain, Bath Soft Cheese based in Kelston, near Bath in Somerset, was faced with an uncertain future after losing more than 50% of its business when the coronavirus crisis forced restaurants and cafes to close.
The company created a grocery home delivery scheme from scratch for its village and the next six nearest villages, and also donated excess cheese that would have been wasted to causes including local NHS workers.
“We also created a simple home delivery cheese selection with free next day delivery for the whole of the UK and slashed the minimum online order to £20 for free next day delivery to anywhere in the UK,” said Managing Director Hugh Padfield.
“We’ve been inundated with orders for both the home delivery cheese selection and for the local villages grocery boxes.
“Through the increased traffic and sales on our website we’ve also formed a stronger link with many customers. Those that are buying online are reading about our organic farm and our history, they’re looking at our YouTube channel, following us on Instagram and Facebook and sending us messages of support. In some ways it feels like we’ve developed a better relationship with our customers.”
The company had to close its brand new cafe at its home at Park Farm, but kept its shop open to sell essentials including milk from its vending machine, eggs, butter, bread and – of course – cheese.
As lockdown restrictions ease, they are starting to sell more from the shop and planning to offer evening meal takeaways. Work on its farm has continued and while some shop/cafe staff have been furloughed, most have been kept on to help with online orders and local grocery deliveries.
With media across the country focusing on the wide-ranging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, empr focused on telling the story of how Bath Soft Cheese had adjusted its offering to survive. The success it found through its new online sales was covered in the Mail on Sunday, Somerset Live and Speciality Food Magazine.
The online offering also went on to be featured in the Telegraph for its Father’s Day round-up, as well as the Daily Mirror’s Father’s Day video round-up.