Coping in a crisis: Pip Organic on what they’ve learnt so far
With the COVID-19 lockdown forcing the hospitality industry to temporarily press pause, many ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers having to close their doors, and others implementing drastic social distancing measures, many organic businesses have had to find new routes to market, prioritising online sales and marketing.
Pip Organic is one such business. As an award-winning healthy organic food and drink brand, with a large retail and foodservice offering, COVID-19 challenges led to some quick thinking from the team, and the development of a successful online shop in a matter of weeks. We speak to Patrick O’Flaherty, Co-Founder of Pip Organic, as he shares what he's learned from his business adapting and pivoting so quickly.
What has been the biggest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
Pip Organic products are available in over 5,000 physical outlets in the UK - we currently work with quick service restaurants, pubs, airlines, schools and the leisure sector. Like most businesses supplying into the hospitality sector, the necessary restrictions put in place by the government to close these environments has meant our distribution was dramatically reduced, with most of our customers not currently operating. Also, as many of our customers are no longer at work, some projects and initiatives have temporarily been put on hold. However, our sales to multiple, independent and online retailers have increased, and we’ve also started working with a number of new customers, as their audiences have been seeking out our range.
How have you adapted to work within this constantly changing environment?
Our team have adapted to so many situations beyond the norm, and we’re so thankful to our loyal customers that have worked with us to adapt, as well. We’ve worked with some of our core channels to extend our distribution, and many of our independent customers that are now operating local delivery services. We’ve also been working hard with our online retailers to support them when there have been surges and blips in their supply chain.
However, as our range was mostly enjoyed out of home, we’ve had an influx of messages from our lovely consumers asking us where they could continue purchasing our range while they’re at home or aren’t able to get home deliveries. In the first few weeks of lockdown, we started on a small scale local ‘Pip juice’ box scheme. It was so successful that we developed an online shop and are now able to deliver almost all of our range to most addresses in mainland UK. The feedback from our customers has been fantastic and uptake is really encouraging.
Tell us about any range changes, additions/deletions or new products?
As parents to two small kids ourselves, our goal is to only produce products that ‘make it easier for parents to say yes’ and that kids love to enjoy. We put ‘no compromise’ at the centre of our product development, which has resulted in ranges such as our delicious organic rainbow ice lollies - that contain only organic fruit and veg, with no added sugar.
We continue to review and make improvements across our range. We’ve just launched a new range of Pip Organic sparkling drinks in cans – containing only organic fruit and sparkling water - that have already gained listings across our online channels. We’ve also been working on a change to paper straws for our kids cartons (for over 20 months), and through the partnership with our straw supplier, we’re the first product in this format to have a paper straw. As luck would have it, our first production run using the paper straws was delivered into some of our hospitality customers the week before lockdown. We are, however, very excited that these will be rolling out across the range within the next few months, with all production going forward converted to paper straws.
What is working well with your new approach?
Our online sales channels are growing week on week, even as the food retail market returns to some degree of normality. We’ve found that our customers want to buy larger quantities and bulk packs of our drinks and lollies. To deal with this, we launched our Pip Packs through our new ‘Pip to You’ service, and will continue to sell these larger packs on our new online shop. We’ve also engaged in numerous community groups to introduce our new direct supply service, as well as offering incentives to engage with us.
What about the production challenges?
We’re very fortunate that we haven’t experienced any adverse supply chain issues, and have continued to work closely with growers, where we have long-standing relationships, so have been able to support each other through this period. We had also just geared up production for some of our products, as we were about to enter one of our busiest periods before lockdown - this meant we had stock of some of our products to carry us through so far.
What has been your most valuable lesson so far?
In a situation that’s changing daily, we’ve learnt to ‘think slowly.’ This is to ensure that any decisions we make are for the long term, not just reacting to what happens on any given day. Using this way of thinking, we’ve worked through situations with our team and customers, supporting them as best we can. We’ve identified 4 phases to help us work through our planning for the future, the four Rs:
This approach has enabled us to work through this unprecedented situation, but we believe it’s critical to support and communicate with each other, whether up or downstream, in the world we live and work in.
What will your focus be as we come out of lockdown?
Being organic and sustainable has always been at the heart of our business, and we’ll continue to communicate the benefits of organic and the importance of making sustainable purchasing decisions. The feedback we’ve had from our customers is also an appreciation of quality and buying more of what is good, over food waste. Never before have we seen so many consumers seeking real values from the brands they purchase, and this resonates so well with quality, organic products.
What does the future look like for Pip?
We have lots of exciting new products in the Pip-line and we’re really excited to roll out new packaging solutions We’re very optimistic about the future and supporting our customers as the lockdown opens up. We’re also looking forward to our Pip-tastic team being back together and the adventures ahead.