Thank you for taking the time to read our first blog in our series ‘The Heart of our Company’
Every month we will be doing a Q&A with one of our Customers or Suppliers from all across the South West, if you are reading this and would like to get involved just drop us an email to email@example.com or message us on facebook. We are very much open to other ideas for this Blog series too.
Thank you to Ide Community Shop who are the first of our Loyal Customers to take part in our Question & Answer blog.
Q: Can you tell us abit about Ide Community Shop and how long it has been running?
A: Ide Community Shop was started by local people in 2009 when the previous shop closed due to the ill health of the owners. It moved to its purpose-built premises in 2013 and is still staffed and run by volunteers.
Q: What do you like the most and least about working in the food industry?
A: As we are a community shop the best bit is being of service to the villagers and getting to know them personally and going over and above the normal service of service a standard shop can offer and helping them out in various ways and looking out for the older members and checking they are ok if they have not been in etc
Q: If you were putting together a Cheese board what would be your top 3 Cheeses?
Q: Have you seen an increase in people shopping locally since the Pandemic?
A: Definitely – people are coming in a lot more as we are smaller and limiting number in the shop at one time, so they feel safer and because they just do not want to go into town with more people around. Also, as more people are home working and home schooling they are coming in as not travelling to work or school etc
Q: How long have you been a Customer of Isca?
A: 10 Years plus
Q: What are some of your best-selling products? Have these changed during the past year?
Bacon, cheese, crisps, eggs, milk & wine
A: Sales have gone up across the board on most lines – a lot more alcohol has sold during lockdown as people have to drink at home. Chocolate and crisps sales have also increased as people treat themselves more as a result of having to stay in. Also, more lunchtime type foods are selling as again people eat at home and feed their children more at home rather than them having school dinners.
Q: Is there anything we don’t sell currently that you’d like to see available?
We get everything we need of you and think you carry a great range – we especially like all the local products as we try and buy as much local and support local producers and suppliers much as we can. This has always been our policy since the start
Q: When Covid has decided to leave us alone and we can finally start to do fun things again, what is the first thing you are going to do/ or have booked already?
Definitely to have time with friends and family – I have so missed seeing people especially the older relatives during this time
Q: Where is your favourite place to eat locally?
A: Hard to say as we have so many great local places around us – the two pubs in the village by the shop, The Huntsman Inn, and The Poachers Inn both are great places to eat with brilliant atmospheres and have fantastic landlords and again are a huge part of village life. Further afield the London Inn at Morchard Bishop is great with an exceptional landlord in Vera and they offer fantastic home cooked food in huge portions.
Q: As a very valued Customer is there anything we can do better to improve the service you are receiving from us?
A: Isca offer great service and great customer care skills on every level – no improvement necessary (just to confirm there was no free cheese given from Isca as a bribe for this answer!)
January 1 – 31st is the month of ‘Veganuary’ for more details visit the website https://veganuary.com/ it has more information on what is it all about and there are alot of Vegan Recipes to try too.
As a Wholesale Business that specialises in Local Cheeses, Meats and Dairy currently we don’t have a huge amount of vegan products to offer but this is something we are always looking at increasing.
Chunk of Devon who is one of our big suppliers we order large quantities from every day they they have been promoting the ‘Veganuary’ box for the whole of this month which includes their 4 vegan products that they supply including –
Cheatin’ Cheese Pasty, Spicy Jack Pie, Nips and Nuts Pie, Roast veg Pasty.
All of the above vegan products except the Cheating cheese are available to Wholesale Customers, Cheatin’ Cheese is only part of the veganuary box.
We do usually stock a Vegan cheese ‘Nature & Moi Dairy Free White Cheddar’ available in pre pack and available in 1 KG blocks too, but due to Coronavirus we have had problems stocking it, we hope to have it back in stock in the near future.
We also stock a good selection of Savoury crackers which were a huge hit at Christmas they are called ‘Cradoc’s Crackers’ and their packaging is fantastic, it is run by the lovely Allie and Ella another family run business.
Cradoc’s Crackers are baked with Wheat, Whole wheat, and Oats as well as loads of veg, fruits, flowers, seeds, herbs and spices.
Egg Free/Nut Free/Sesame Free/Palm-oil Free, Vegetarian and a selection
They have a large selection of flavours, of which 6 are Vegan friendly Beetroot and Garlic, Spinach and Celery, Checkers, Sea Salted, Oat Crackers, Wholemeal wheat, chia and flax seeds.
Well it wouldn’t be right to not do a blog about this very surreal year we have had, the year of toilet roll wars, virtual quizzes, face masks, being 2 metres apart, queing to get into a supermarket, not being able to get a home delivery slot, cancelled weddings and events, no fans in stadiums, but thankfully no shortage on cheese – phew!!
Who would have thought that a virus would have caused so much disruption to this year and still continues to 9 months on!
For us as a business we have been very fortunate to be able to remain open, with our amazing suppliers carrying on supplying us throughout this year, the staff have worked extremely hard, put in some long hours to ensure that all of our Customers orders have been met throughout the busiest times of this year.
We are very lucky that we supply the farm shops, delis, local convenient stores , garages, butchers and cafes which have remained opened during this pandemic, more and more people have started to and continue to shop local which is so important in these times to support the smaller businesses.
For us in the grand scheme of things this year has actually been a very successful one and one we definitely wont forget, we’d really like to share our achievements from this year and we strongly believe that we are going to go from strength to strength as a business in 2021 with more exciting things to come.
Lets rewind back to January 2020 and start with our building work that has taken place.
January 2020 – Time for an extension
In January 2020 work began on the extension which has given us a much larger fridge and warehouse area another production room, and above this area we now have 2 offices, kitchen/staff room, male and female toilets (no more sharing!) and a waiting area with a new entrance and staircase which will give us access directly from the car park.
We are very nearly there with the work, the car park area needs completing and signage for the building needs to be done but the majority is now in place and is really was something that needed doing, we would have struggled to remain open during this pandemic if we didn’t have the extra space we have got now, Christmas last year our fridge space was over flowing, so this year it has been much easier to manage (although still rather full!)
We were planning to have an open day this year but due to Covid-19 and building works this hasn’t been able to happen, but this is something in the pipeline hopefully for next year so look out for news on this maybe mid/late 2021?
Orchardlea Occasion Foods and Westcountry Olives
This year we have launched 2 Sister Businesses which if you don’t already know about you will hopefully see crop up on social media now.
Orchardlea Occasion Foods launched in January this year just before Covid-19 came along, the idea is to supply local high quality buffet food for weddings, parties and events of any size.
We launched the Facebook page and website, had weddings, parties and events booked in the diary but none of them have been able to go ahead and everything is currently postponed until next year.
We have like many other companies diversified and been doing some hampers this year instead, which have been a lot of cheese hampers and smaller adapted versions of our buffet packages (Devon Picnic package for instance)
For Father’s Day we did a couple of Pub lunch hampers which were incredibly popular, we did over 60 in the end so we may do these again next year.
Westcountry Olives was an idea of Tim’s (my Father in Law) who owns the business with Liam (my Husband) his desire is to produce and subsequently eat great tasting olives and to experiment with new flavour combinations. The olives are sourced from around the Mediterranean and they are mixed using Bell and Loxton Oils another local company also based in Devon.
Will created the website and is currently working on the branding to have some new and much better packaging in the near future, he manages the Social Media, correspondence and any orders that are made. Will joined us earlier in the year and is another Family Member to our ever growing Family business!
We sell Westcountry Olives to our Wholesale Customers which are sold in 200g Retail packs and we also do larger bulk packets – 1kg for example. We currently have 14 flavours and are always thinking of new flavour combinations.
As well as wholesale our olives are also available to purchase online via the website www.westcountryolives.co.uk Instagram shop and even on ebay!It was really exciting to finally launch our very own brand of olives and we think that 2021 is going to be a very exciting year for us and our Olive’s! We will have a complete brand design once the new packaging has been done which will really compliment the olives and make this a brand to remember!
New Van designs and branding (Orchardlea Foods)
We will be completely re branding to Orchardlea Foods in the very near future once we have time to get the website finished. The company has been known as Isca Foods for around 30 years but ever since we took on the retail/pre pack side under Orchardlea we have wanted to re brand to Orchardlea Foods but like everything with a small business it all takes time.
We have had 2 of our new vans re designed using Orchardlea Foods, we are really pleased with the design and they certainly stand out in the crowd.
We are hoping this year to have a new website up and running, and hopefully some new systems in place including order forms online, and a much improved invoice system so we can really get the business running more smoothly this is really needed more than ever as the business is growing all the time and we have had taken on alot of new customers this year which is great we just don’t want to let customers down, actually the complete opposite we want to be the best we can be!
We have 20 employees now, of which 5 are new just this year!
I (Hannah, Liam’s Wife) joined in January this year, I had previously worked as a Civil Servant for 12 years at Exeter Crown and County Court but after our 2 girls and in need of a change I felt it was time to join Liam and the Isca team!
As above the plan was to pursue Orchardlea Occasion Foods but instead I helped for quite a while picking orders when we were in the heat of the first lockdown.
I now am still doing Orchardlea Occasion Foods aswell as covering Bethany whilst she is on maternity leave, you have probably spoken to me on the phone (thank you for your patience with me if you have!)
Followed shortly by Will who is the Step Brother to Liam (who runs the business) Will had to unfortunately cut his travelling trip short due to covid-19, when he returned he had no job to go back to so came to join us! It was only going to be a short term job but I think we have probably stolen Will for long term (hopefully anyway) he started off helping in the cutting room and out as a delivery driver to help cover the routes whilst we were in the first lockdown, he then started to come into his own by taking on design work and our websites he had done a lot of this in his previous job so we are very grateful for his knowledge.
Will is also the designer and Manages Westcontry Olives, he is doing a sterling job and will be pushing the olives forward when we return to work next week.
Andy then joined us, his role is in one of the production rooms slicing meats such as hams, cured meats and then packing them into retail size packs, he also does any bulk orders of meats that are required too.
We then employed Dan, he was employed to work through the busy summer period and as we are getting busier needed an extra staff member to pick orders, he has since become the face and voice of Westcountry Olives you may have seen him on the Westcountry Olives social media platforms! Dan is a actually a budding Actor who is waiting for his big break, so we know we haven’t got him for that long which is a real shame he is a real hard worker and a really lovely chap.
We have just employed Bea who is helping us with our banking one day a week to try and keep on top of it, as we get busier and gain more customers the banking becomes a much bigger job which needs more attention so this is a massive help while Bethany is on maternity leave. Bea is also going to be helping with getting some new systems in place, and with the bank reconcile too which is always a hard job.
Going forward into 2021 we have got the car park area and signage to do, we are also going to be making use of some roof space for more storage which is next on the agenda, a hard push for Westcountry Olives to our Wholesale customers, general public and to the Restaurant/pub trade and new packaging to finish the branding to come this year too.
We are possibly going to be adding some more products to our Olive range, more to come on this later in the year.
New and up to date systems will be put in place to assist in running the business more smoothly and getting how we work up to speed and up to date with modern technology, a new website and an online order system.
It is safe to say we have got a busy year ahead, hopefully with not too much more disruption from dreaded Coronavirus!