Updates about the Horticulture Wales project, along with industry news and opinion.

Collaboration In Business Award Runner-Up – Pembrokeshire Produce Direct

05 December 2013

The runner-up in our Collaboration In Business category is Pembrokeshire Produce Direct, a not-for-profit co-operative that brings together as many as 70 West Wales farmers and artisan food producers to offer customers an online “farmers’ market in a box”. Co-ordinating deliveries through a central hub and joint marketing to promote the co-operative’s producers and products were just two of the reasons why our judging panel rated the entry so highly...

Pembrokeshire Product Direct with Alun Davies AM (268px * 178px)Established back in 2008, Pembrokeshire Produce Direct was launched to encourage local communities to buy more locally-produced food and drink, while at the same time making it economically viable for smaller producers, in particular, to reach a wider audience by sharing distribution and marketing costs. The concept operates on a weekly cycle – customers online through a dedicated portal by a Tuesday deadline; producers bring their wares to the scheme’s central delivery hub just outside Narbeth on the Wednesday, where they are stored and packed; and orders are delivered direct to customers’ doors on the Thursday and Friday.

The scheme currently has a membership of around 70 businesses – either primary producers or producers that add value to a primary product – covering everything from fresh fruit and vegetable growers, butchers, brewers, and bakers, through to farmers, fishmongers, and artisan producers. As many as 50 or 60 of the members can be ‘active’ at any particular time, although some obviously operate on a seasonal basis, so only participate at certain points of the year.

PPD with Certificate 640x480 (180px * 135px)Our judges were particularly keen to hear about the involvement of growers in the co-operative, with five or six local fresh fruit, vegetable, and salad suppliers regularly engaged. Two growers have forged a particularly close working relationship through their involvement in Pembrokeshire Produce Direct – Peepout Organics in Haverfordwest and Ritec Valley Organics near Penally. Both businesses communicate regularly to ensure they don’t duplicate what is being grown, ensuring customers have a wider range to choose from, while they also help to deliver each other’s produce. For example, one of the growers will drop off a customer order at the same time as they are delivering their weekly PPD supplies, which the other business then collects as they too drop off their goods, before delivering on to the end customer – true collaboration in action.

Other areas where the scheme inspires partnership working include special discounts for members to encourage inter-trading between the producers, suppliers arranging special pick-ups between each other to share the cost and time of transporting goods to the central hub, and the hiring out of the Pembrokeshire Produce Direct van to members during times of the week when it isn’t in use.

DSCF0250 - Copy (180px * 119px)During December the producers will volunteer to pack 1,400 Christmas hampers the co-operative has won a major contract to supply, even though many won’t actually have any of their products included, a real sign that the businesses see the ‘bigger picture’ and are buying into the spirit of partnership even when the personal rewards might initially seem limited.

One other key area where the producers work collaboratively is in joint marketing and promotion. For many small-scale producers, taking exhibition space at trade shows or county fairs can simply be too expensive. Working under the Pembrokeshire Produce Direct banner, groups of producers have been able to exhibit at events such as the Narbeth Food Festival and the Pembrokeshire County Show, actually manning the stands themselves and selling not just their own products, but other members’ too.

Similarly, General Manager Ashley Calvert and his team produce ready-made, joint-branded leaflets and flyers for the producers to hand out to raise awareness of the scheme, while weekly email newsletters also give members the opportunity to showcase any special offers they may currently have, an excellent way for growers especially to find an outlet for any surplus produce they have, which otherwise may have gone to waste. As Sian Williams, of Bethesda Farm and Coffee Shop, Narbeth, who is also the current Chair of Pembrokeshire Produce Direct, explained: “Producers are mainly the do-ers, and perhaps some don’t quite know how to sell or market themselves as effectively as they could, whereas being involved in something like this is a great way for everyone to help each other out.”

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