As Local Food Britain launches a new campaign encouraging people to ‘Stay Loyal to Local’ beyond the lockdown, here we explain more about how it all came about – and the ways that independent businesses are set to benefit

While the lockdown has undoubtedly brought many challenges, one of the unexpected benefits is that it has also led to us buying more local food and drink. With shortages at the supermarkets, online delivery slots often hard to come by and everyone encouraged to stay closer to home, it seems people have been turning in their droves to our smaller, independent businesses.

And these, in turn, have been adapting at breakneck speed – and in the most innovative ways – to fill that need. From new veg box schemes, mobile community shops and a ‘queue with a view’ to the launch of e-commerce sites, email newsletters and social-media channels, there are so many inspiring stories to emerge from this time. In fact, with many local businesses acting as a lifeline to their communities, it’s perhaps no wonder that, for some, it’s been an even busier time than normal.

New campaign

Now Local Food Britain, which champions farmers, growers, makers, chefs and publicans, has launched a new campaign to encourage everyone to ‘Stay Loyal to Local’ going forward. In essence, the idea is to promote, showcase and celebrate our local independents, both as the lockdown loosens and beyond.

“Here at Local Food Britain, supporting our local independents is at the heart of everything that we do,” says founder Tracy Carroll. “So, it has been wonderful to see them playing such an important role during this time.

“We are so impressed with how resourceful they have been, really pulling out all the stops to support their local communities. Many have been working round the clock to serve not only existing customers, but also a sudden surge of new ones. It’s very encouraging to see this uplift, and to hear about people discovering for the first time what’s on their doorstep.

“So, the call now is to ask them to continue supporting those businesses – which, due to the huge changes in the wholesale and events markets, need this support more than ever. That’s why we’re urging people to stay loyal to local.”

Indeed, while it’s true that many local businesses have been busier than ever, in the majority of cases this hasn’t compensated for the loss of their wholesale and events trade. For the most part, they have been forced to reinvent in order to survive, rather than capitalise.

Then there are the pubs, restaurants and cafés who had to close their doors altogether, and caterers and event companies have who have seen packed diaries empty almost overnight. Plus, with so many areas of the hospitality industry effectively shut for business, this has also had the knock-on effect of surplus stock having to be dumped – for instance, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) reported that 70 million pints of beer had to be destroyed when pubs were ordered to close.

In addition, with no tours, tastings or classes taking place – except via the internet – this has also been another lost revenue stream for businesses such as vineyards, breweries, coffee roasteries and cookery schools.

“In truth, most independents work on very narrow margins, so it’s a challenge for many of our much-loved local businesses just to survive,” continues Tracy. “That’s why we all need to stand together to help and support each other.

“At Local Food Britain, that’s exactly what we’re all about. In fact, it’s been especially rewarding to hear how our members have been working together to help each other through the lockdown – in collaborations that will hopefully stand the test of time.”

Boost for businesses

“As the economic reality starts to bite, we really want to give our local businesses an extra boost – and, with our ‘Stay Loyal to Local’ campaign, we can hopefully achieve that.

“As well as showcasing its members with interviews on the Local Food Britain website, the idea is to promote their stories through social media and also to the press. In addition, participants in the scheme will be encouraged to sport a special badge with the ‘Stay Loyal to Local’ logo.

Looking to the future, it is hoped that the campaign could become a permanent fixture, with associated events such as webinars, podcasts and online markets. “Hopefully, if one good thing comes out of the lockdown, it will be that we all ‘Stay Loyal to Local’ in the long term,” adds Tracy. “With our new campaign, we hope in some small way to help achieve that.”