Occasionally I manage to have a conversation over the phone with a supplier who not only sounds authentic but who enthuses about his products and tells me exactly what is happening, what is going wrong and what their plans are for the next year. Today I talked to a man who is passionate about his pies. I know why, they are fantastic, made with real, local ingredients and we had a fantastic conversation about food miles and cardboard boxes.
I basically asked him whether he wanted to have his boxes back and was told that he would love to, but that unfortunately they cannot be brought back into the food preparation area because of problems with contamination of bacteria. I understand that, and I applaud his efforts to make his boxes from recycled cardboard. The only option we have is to either recycle them or offer them to customers who want to send an item in the post. Its a useful box, it packs flat and is very sturdy. When the pies arrive, they are priced immediately and put in the display cabinet and the box is quickly disposed of.
We also talked about the costs of transporting the pies and he was trying to see if he could share transport with another of our food suppliers that was close to him, but there was no match.
I loved this conversation; discussing genuine difficulties and possible solutions to a company that due to its own success is ready to expand into a larger production area and with it, is trying to tell me that in the future, I might not be viable to deliver to as it stands. What a dilemma? I guess the company owes its success in parts to small village shops who enjoy local pies made with local ingredients while at the same time, expanding his business might just mean losing the shops that have sustained him while he was a small business.
I hope not, I hope they find a middle way through this. In the meantime, we shared a passion for the environment and the dilemmas caused when making decisions.
I look forward to seeing him in the future when he comes on a visit as he will do in Spring. Guess the climate for food producers who make a genuine authentic not run of the mill pie are as difficult as remaining a sustainable village shop. I also know that I would not have had such a productive and honest discussion with a supermarket supplier.