Vitacress is one of Europe’s leading suppliers of fresh produce, specialising in salads and herbs, supplying own-label and branded products to supermarkets and non-retail. Its goal is to supply the freshest, tastiest, healthiest and most exciting produce throughout the year — no mean task when presented with the kind of extreme weather that hit the UK in 2018.
Heavy snow in February and March, followed by the hottest summer on record, presented numerous challenges. But the team rose to them and coped exceptionally well, demonstrating an outstanding work ethic that allowed the company to not only maintain normal supply to customers but also meet short-notice extra demand, increase service levels and drive down complaints.
The extreme conditions led Vitacress to shift work patterns to ensure the safety of its farmers in the heat. This meant starting at 4am to avoid the hottest part of the day. More night-time irrigation was introduced to prevent crop scorching and keep the business on track.
Vitacress farmers were quick to adjust soil management and modify planned varietal use to maintain crop establishment and growth, while minimising bolting. The company’s geographic spread allowed it to ensure supply by sourcing crops from farms that were under less pressure.
The increased consumer demand for leafy salad during the summer meant factory teams were coming in early and leaving late to fulfil demand. Free soup during the snow and free ice cream during the summer helped to keep up morale.
When demand increases reached unprecedented levels, Vitacress’s ability to tap into European supply to ensure customer service led to some fantastic feedback from one customer’s buying manager: "Thanks for the huge effort on volume over the week and particularly for your employees, who must have worked so hard to achieve this. This was a huge help to us and doesn’t go unnoticed."
Customer service exceeded targets during summer, with 99.7% of supply delivered on time, in full. The team worked to reduce foreign bodies by improving fencing and optical sorting as well as reviewing harvesting practices. This process has helped drive a reduction in complaints of 22% year-on-year.
The great work by Vitacress staff in 2018 has led to an extension of a product range to a major customer, winning the company two new lines of business, enabling further investment in site upgrades and kit.
CATEGORY SPONSOR: UPL
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