Old Normal? New Normal? what Normal?

The current pandemic and ensuing lockdown has been a huge event in terms of impact on every area of our lives. Of course in terms of the health services, family pressures, tragic loss and terrible worry in peoples personal lives there is little to compare it to for most of us. There has also been fundamental change, sudden all encompassing change at that, in every level of business life.

This seismic shift has been particlulary devastating to the hospitality and food sectors. Demand from restaurant and food service sectors disappeared overnight, at the same time demand for retail packs and particularly on-line sales platforms grew at a rate that mirrored the scale of halt in wholesale.

For independent charcuterie producers this saw many ‘bread and butter’ supply contracts simply cease without warning, often with concerns that they may not return if forecasts over permanent closures are to be believed. It also saw a need to pivot quickly to labour intensive retail sales and finding ways to stay in touch with the customer base through on-line presence and social media.

The ability of many smaller independent producers to make the necessary shifts, be flexible and adaptable and engage in new ways with their market has been amazing and inspiring to see. Testament to the grit and determination that is such a trait in small business owners and operators. We trust and hope it has also given investors and backers confidence that their faith was well placed and that the future, whilst different (for now at least) looks positive.

One of the things the sector in the UK surely didn’t need right now was the extra dose of suffering caused by the collapse of Cannon & Cannon. To go into administration owing producers tens of thousands of pounds, with stock nowhere to be found and with apparently little communication has really rubbed salt into wounds and with the worst possible timing.

The Charcuterie Board also found itself in the dark to some extent about Awards we were due to help judge, and in seeking to try to salvage something for the entrants who had been left in the lurch we were concerned to discover many entrants had not been officially informed of Cannon & Cannon’s demise and nor had their payments to the company for entry into their Awards been listed with the Administrators. We are writing to the Insolvency Service to highlight this last issue and seek some advice and help for those affected.

We will also shortly be announcing our celebration, tastings and prize giving for those who had entered the C&C Awards as we step in to offer some help with our own ‘one off’ Awards and national recognition of some fantastic produce and the people that make it.

It remains to be seen how normal ‘going back to normal’ will actually be for the sector as a whole. Within this though are, no doubt, opportunities to be seized, a closer relationship with core customers and a, perhaps sobering, insight into businesses efficiency and profitability. All of these provide valuable tools for progress and we have great faith that the sector will power through and here at The Charcuterie Board we will continue to Champion smaller or independent producers and highlight the importance of consumers staying loyal even as things start to ease.

There will also almost inevitably be a dramatically different pattern of expenditure as populations face what looks like a fairly comprehensive economic slow down after furloughs and other shrinkages start to bite. This may need innovation in terms of offer, catering to frugal consumers and seeking to make the ‘most out of the least’ in terms of economy in the cutting rooms and kitchens of the sectors independent producers.

This though is surely the very essence of ‘charcuterie’ – to keep making those silk purses and turning that 5th quarter to gold.