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Downham Market food firm tries a Fresh lockdown venture

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A business renowned for providing fresh produce and food ingredients to schools, canteens and the hospitality industry across East Anglia has made a huge diversification to keep the company afloat.

In the wake of Covid-19, Accent Fresh, in Downham, lost 90pc of its business and revenue overnight.

Now, managing director Steve Short has turned his expertise to producing a series of essential home produce boxes, which he and staff members are delivering to people living across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

Ron and Eileen Wilson from North Pickenham receiving their grocery delivery from Accent Fresh (35393472)
Ron and Eileen Wilson from North Pickenham receiving their grocery delivery from Accent Fresh (35393472)

It is the first time in its 24-year-old history the company has worked directly with the public and Steve hopes to embed the new venture as a permanent arm of Accent Fresh.

He said: “We felt we had a moral obligation to keep the business running in order to continue to supply our care home business and education customers that were providing for essential workers children. Having lost all of our hospitality work we needed to make some quick decisions.

“Just a few days later we had the online shop and payment system set up on our website and so far we have made over 6,000 deliveries, which is about 150 a day on average.

“This is not us working at full capacity. We like many others have had to make some difficult decisions. We are operating with about 25 staff, we normally have 85, and we have gone from 30 drivers to just eight.”

Steve paid tribute to his accountancy firm Stephenson Smart for supporting him through the process and assisting him with matters such as furloughing and deferred tax.

“Stephenson Smart has been there every step of the way in helping me to adapt the business. It’s been a big change and they have been absolutely brilliant.”

Produce boxes, including essentials such as bread, milk, orange juice, fruit and vegetables, start at £20.

Meat selection boxes, an essential cheese box, an at home pizza kit and home baking boxes, including a gluten free selection are available at varying prices. Sacks of potatoes, salad boxes and individual tubs of vegan margarine are also on offer.

“We haven’t directly worked with the public before and we are visiting postcodes we have never been to. It’s been a big learning curve and we have had to think on our feet, but the staff have been brilliant.”

Claire Melton, partner at Stephenson Smart, in Lynn, has been ordering boxes of groceries from Accent Fresh.

She said: “After being introduced to the home boxes and having such good quality, fresh produce, which is noticeably better than the supermarket, I don’t think I’d go back now.

“As a family we enjoy working backwards, seeing what’s in the box and then planning our meals with it. We have never eaten so healthily.

“It’s a brilliant concept and a great way to diversify. We were only too happy to help Steve and the team with supporting their change in circumstances.”

Kayleigh Wilson, manager at Stephenson Smart, also spoke highly of the new service. She said: “My grandparents live in North Pickenham and are self-isolating because of coronavirus. This service has given them extra peace of mind and support by being able to have a supply of good quality, fresh food delivered directly to their door."

Orders are in high demand so anyone with internet access should visit www.accentfresh.co.uk or call 01336 386633 where the team will help with the ordering process.

People with a customer account can call or leave orders as normal.

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