Food and drink businesses have stepped up to the plate and met a surge in demand for fresh produce during lockdown.

Blasu/Taste North East Wales has praised firms in the sector for diversifying and changing business models to serve their communities since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.

From home deliveries to online platforms, stocking new lines and an increase in production, they have supported customers who needed it most, including the vulnerable and elderly in rural areas.

Among the outlets to have continued trading in past months is Porters Deli in Llangollen, whose owner Tracey Hughes said it was a dairy delight that helped them stave off the challenges of COVID-19.

“Lockdown would have potentially devasted our business, but we quickly adapted when it became apparent from customers that while in self-isolation they would still be enjoying their favourite foods, especially cheese,” said Tracey.

“We have always offered a free home delivery service within a local radius but were able to greatly expand this with the help of our local greengrocer, Dee Valley Fruit and Veg.

“Working together we covered a much greater area and supplied many more of our customers. When people became aware that they could telephone an order and get it delivered the next day the service really took off and is still being used now.”

She added: “Whilst we were never closed to customers, now things are a lot busier we are controlling numbers in the shop and have installed screens and a hand sanitiser station to help keep everyone safe.”

Another to have seen a huge rise in sales is Swans Farm Shop in Treuddyn, near Mold.

Gail Swan runs it with butcher husband Clive, assistant butcher and son, Edward, and daughter Becca, who is also a midwife.

“We have a farm and the farm shop so when the shop is busier it means the farm is busier, but the priority has always been safety,” said Gail.

“We have done everything we can to ensure customers are confident about shopping, from social distancing to sanitiser stations, single-use gloves and more.

“We have also carried out home deliveries to regular customers and have been offering pick-ups from our car park so people can receive their items in a designated area.”

She added: “Barely a day has gone by where we haven’t introduced something new, which has been challenging but also rewarding as we have been able to support more local producers.

“We have stepped up production of our own items and businesses locally have done the same; the product range of everyday essentials we now have is incredible because people have been coming in and asking for things we didn’t previously stock.

“We’ve been living and breathing the business but are just glad to have been of service to our community during what has undoubtedly been the most hectic period in the 17 years since we opened.”

The second annual Blasu/Taste North East Wales is taking place virtually this year after organisers Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, with the support of Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire, decided to host an online celebration to ensure the health and safety of participants.

Funded by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, via the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government, there will be events including a viewing of restaurants using social-distancing measures, cookery demonstrations and an interactive tasting.

Coordinator Robyn Lovelock praised businesses for the innovative and immediate ways in which they met the uncertainty of the pandemic head-on.

“This was completely unchartered territory for all of them, yet they stepped up when their communities – especially people shielding in rural areas – were in lockdown at home and unable to get out to the shops,” she said.

“Like never before we have seen the best of the food and drink industry in this region, and it makes us proud.”

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