Helping Small Food Businesses

UK farmers and small food and drink manufacturers are operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace with little understanding of who their customers are or how they behave yet their contribution to the UK economy is of significant value. The UK’s total consumer spend on food and drink is upwards of £170billion and DEFRA’s 2011 statistics report that 97% of the 7,300 food and drink manufacturing enterprises in the UK, employing approximately 390,000 people, are classified as Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs).

In April 2005 Kent Business School and consumer analysts dunnhumby established a joint venture to provide a mechanism for farmers and small food producers to access unique shopper insight from the purchasing behaviour of over 17 million households in the UK.

Professor Andrew Fearne, director of the Centre for Value Chain Research (CVCR), developed a free service providing analysis of supermarket shopper behaviour for individual products (e.g. ‘loose Kentish new potatoes’), or groups of food products (e.g. ‘new potatoes’), revealing detailed insights into which products are growing their sales, who is buying them, where they are buying them and what else they are buying. This information, is available free of charge to farmers and small food producers from across a wide range of sectors – meat, dairy, fresh produce and cereal based products.

Professor Fearne and his colleagues have also conducted studies into how small food businesses make use of market information and the barriers and enablers associated with the use of supermarket loyalty card data, which has allowed it to develop the service in line with the specific needs of SMEs.

In total, more than 700 shopper insight reports have been delivered to over 500 individual businesses in the last 7 years and over 200 businesses have attended shopper insight workshops. These businesses – including:  Burts Chips, Fiddleford Mushrooms, Bath Ales, Natural Balance Foods, Morrellis Ice Cream and the Cornish Country Larder – have been able to target their marketing and promotions, develop new projects and diversify their businesses. They have shown increased growth, distribution and sales in both regional and nationwide markets and consumer insight has been an essential ingredient to their success.


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