The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on our lives and for many, this is a year that marks significant personal loss. While the lockdown restrictions have been lifted there is a genuine sense of mourning that ‘things will never be the same’ as we all move forwards towards what can only be described as uncertain times.

For all the sadness and despair associated with the last five months, there is a glimmer of positivity for the farm shop and delicatessen sector, who have emerged as the unsung heroes of the community.

With the large supermarkets representing unsafe territory for so many due to the prospect of mixing with significant crowds of people in a confined area, the appeal of the smaller, independent retail outlets including farm shops and delis – often sited in a far more spacious environment – has gone from strength to strength. Couple this with the amazing innovation and overwhelming community spirit which we have witnessed from these entrepreneurial businesses and it is plain to see that consumers have shifted their loyalty and trust away from the multiples, choosing to place their business with the companies that have helped them survive the turmoil of the last few months.

While the local farm shop or deli may not offer the lowest prices, in the current climate, the mantra ‘health is wealth’ could not resonate more strongly and there is a general acceptance that paying a bit more for food that has been either produced locally – or carefully sourced – is worth every penny. Provence, quality and a commitment to producing best in class goods is widely associated with our sector and pushing the weekly budget to access food and drink that offers sound nutrition, a superior taste and has also been responsibly produced is now a very attractive proposition. The Hippocrates quote ‘Let thy food be thy medicine’ emphasises the importance of nutrition to prevent or cure disease and never before has this belief met with such a receptive audience.

Going out to eat is still not without its issues, and as a result, treating ourselves to a wonderful meal or entertaining friends within our bubble has naturally grown in popularity – and with that comes the need to push the boundaries on our normal day to day fayre. This is once again where the independent sector can shine, providing consumers with access to newly discovered gastronomic gems. Not only is it possible to source these exciting new food experiences in the farm shop or deli, the owners of these businesses are able to pass on a wealth of knowledge  as to the best ways to use these products and are more often than not, far more amenable to sampling ahead of purchase (in a Covid-19 responsible manner!).

All of these factors add up to a fantastic opportunity for the independents. We are entering a whole new world where suddenly, the big multiples no longer dominate the consumer’s food shopping conscience. This is our time to shine. Our time to strengthen ties with our customers. Our time to continue to play such a pivotal role in helping the UK navigate its way to the new normal.