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Q&A with Croft and Cottage, producers of delicious home cooked food on Exmoor

Boeuf Bourguignon, Pulled Pork Stroganoff and Roasted Pepper & Spinach Lasagne – the Croft and Cottage menu sounds delicious and has been keeping Hayley Sampson and Emma Thomasson busy throughout Lockdown. From their kitchen in Dulverton on Exmoor they deliver home-made feasts for celebration evenings, lazy dinner parties and meals to holiday homes. They also provide home-made high quality frozen ready meals with ingredients from local producers. Their market has expanded in recent months and plans are in place to extend that nationwide as Hayley explains.

1. What do you do/ what is your business?

We produce delicious home cooked, locally sourced frozen ready meals. We cook in small batches in our Exmoor kitchen and focus on the quality and origins of our product and the ingredients used. Wherever possible we source everything locally, with meat and fresh produce coming from farms across Somerset and Devon. It’s real home cooked food, nothing artificial or nasty added, just real ingredients.

2. How has your business been affected by the restrictions of the Covid 19 pandemic?

It’s been a real mixed bag for us. We have been busy restocking local stores but also very quickly introduced free local delivery of the range, in particular to support our customers who were isolating.

We also planned to attend various events and farmers’ markets throughout the summer to promote our products. Sadly, these have, of course, been put on hold, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll be able to get some back and up running before the summer ends.

In addition, we provide feasts for special occasions, which completely dropped off with group gathering being a no no. We did find, however, that as time went on, people were asking us to help them to celebrate special occasions with their partners and families at home where previous plans had to change. This has been a real pleasure!

3. What changes has it meant for business operations?

We operate out of our home kitchen on Exmoor and as key food workers we have been lucky as we have been able to continue working throughout the lockdown. We have had to adapt the way we work though, ensuring only the two of us work in the kitchen. We’re lucky in that it is a big space and we can carve up the room to make sure we have our own workspace. Excellent hygiene and health and safety has always been a top and essential priority for us so nothing has changed in that regard, other than wearing gloves when we are out delivering. For our local deliveries we have provided a fully contactless service taking pre-payment and agreeing delivery time slots for us to leave packages on people’s doorsteps.

4. How important is virtual networking to you in our new ‘normal’? What do you like/dislike about it?

We quickly had to get comfortable with it! Typically, we like to get out and about and meet our current and potential distributors face-to-face as we think it’s really important for them to meet us to feel confident and to taste our food. We have had to adapt and do more of our sales over the phone which is challenging to get the engagement but we’re getting there!

Our plan for the future is to go online and distribute our range nationwide. For this we will need a whole new marketing approach and virtual promotion and networking will become essential, so we’re busy building our social media presence at the moment!

This article has been published in association with Networking News, a monthly publication highlighting scheduled business networking events in the Exeter area. For more details go to https://www.linkedin.com/in/louiseclarke/detail/recent-activity/

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