Faced with the challenge of getting food on tables, dairy firms across the country have been battling to meet shopper’s demands since the coronavirus outbreak hit the UK.
While many have also been faced with staff shortages, others have been trying to adapt to the rapidly-changing Government guidelines.
And while the export market has almost completely fallen away for some industries, it’s very much still a priority for north-east food firm Mackie’s of Scotland.
Karin Hayhow, marketing director of the ice cream firm based in Westertown, Rothienorman, said: “April/May is the time of year when our biggest orders for Asia go out just before their summer. We have a couple of big orders that we’re trying to get made and shipped as soon as we can.
“Asia is one of our biggest international markets. The UK is by far our biggest market and export would be about 10% of our business. Most of our products go to countries around Asia.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty as things are happening and changing all the time. Shipping seems to be continuing and we’re unaware of there being any problems at borders. Some of our UK customers do ship on our products around Europe, too.”
Keeping staff safe and following Government guidelines religiously is something Karin says the firm has implemented many new practices on.
She added: “The inter-relations between different farms and food companies is something the government will want to keep going for as long as possible.
“As time goes on we just have to ensure we are taking good care of members of staff if they’re unable to come in, and were taking a lot of care when it comes to protecting staff who are still working on-site.
“All of our office employees are working from home and whoever else can is doing so. It’s a flawless team working at the farm just now, they’re working at distance and keeping to themselves as well as working with as many additional safety routines as we can.
“We’re evolving, changing and being as flexible as possible so we’re just taking each day as it goes.
“We’re almost operating at full capacity as well and we’re just working to ensure the main and most popular lines are still being met. They are our priority, too.”
Working on a smaller scale, Aberdeenshire yoghurt producer Rora Dairy near Peterhead is also taking extra precautions to protect staff, recruiting on-site family members to chip in instead.
Owner Jane Mackie, said: “Two members of my staff were nervous about lockdown so they’re not working at the moment – I don’t want anyone working who doesn’t feel content, but we are operating and because we’re supplying two big supermarkets, we continue on.
“There’s less of a team now. We’re doing it more in-house and working as a family rather than have outside people. If we do, there’s just one person doing packing and they do that on their own. I have one member of the team who is in self-isolation so she doesn’t see anyone but us and just goes to and from work.
“We’re still delivering to supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and Morrisons where there’s big depots and we get our temperatures checked and wash our hands. For the local deliveries I’m delivering to independent stores, I don’t come into contact with anyone. We’re not very customer facing.”
But it’s the supply chain Jane has concerns over, with less and less people going to work due to the recent lockdown and only essential staff being able to go to work.
She said: “I am concerned going forward that the supply chain will be weaker. It’s going to be difficult if people don’t go to work to get everything done. For example, some of the bigger companies who I deal with to get equipment, the equipment might be able to be delivered but the engineers can’t come on site to install it. It’s things like that you’re not necessarily thinking about. But I guess that’s only really for more long term things. Today we are carrying on as we are.
“I think if I wasn’t in major retail I’d be a bit quiet. My timing has been lucky but I’m really feeling for my peers.
“We’re not doing any direct sales online but we supply other people doing it. We also supply to both Williamson and Cress who are distributors who deliver to farm shops and delis across the country so they’re really trying to help everyone, too.
“The yoghurt has been consistently busy for retail, but food for the service industry has just gone. I’m really worrying about the cafes and hotels just now but retail is holding up. I think that is where it’s going to stay. It was really crazy for a couple of weeks but its calming down now as everyone’s in lockdown so it’s steadying.”