Using local suppliers for local pubs helps brewery go the distance to reduce its food miles

March 15, 2019
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A brewery and pub chain based just outside Bristol is toasting success in slashing its food miles by streamlining its supply chain, including using more local firms.

The reduction of just under 850,000 food miles achieved last year by Butcombe Brewing Company, which is based in Wrington, came despite it continuing to grow its estate to 40-plus pubs and eateries. 

The achievement also helped Butcombe parent company the Liberation Group become a finalist in the Best Sustainable Pub Company category of the 2019 Publican Awards, which were held earlier this week in London.

It formed part of the Liberation Group’s submission, having been made possible through Butcombe’s partnership with Weston-super-Mare based Regency Purchasing Group.

Regency works with more than 2,700 leisure businesses nationwide, including some of Britain’s biggest and best-known attractions, hundreds of golf clubs, plus pubs, hotels, zoos, farm attractions and many others.

Butcombe group executive chef Alice Bowyer said: “We have a 40-strong managed and tenanted pub estate which includes everything from a three-rosette country house hotel to gastro-pubs and wet-led premises.

“We had over 35 different suppliers for food across the group, which, even when we had just nine or ten pubs, was difficult to manage, with low profit margins.

“Last year we bought 15 new businesses so that, in itself, brought a lot of challenges. We did not really understand where we were buying from, who from, and had little control.

“Regency have a lot of knowledge of the industry and a lot of understanding as to what we should be paying, from who, and their advice has been invaluable.”

Regency Group managing director Alex Demetriou said the reduction in food miles had been achieved by streamlining suppliers, using an increasing number of local suppliers and sourcing more produce from local growers.

“It has been a very challenging time for the industry and we’ve seen more and more businesses turn to procurement companies like ours to help maintain trading margins or even to enhance food margins in order to help counterbalance the increases in labour costs,” he said.

“We can help because of the discounts we achieve through our volume purchasing power and market intelligence.

“Of course, there’s another huge added benefit to achieving a significant reduction in food miles, and that’s the positive environmental impact.

“It’s been very satisfying to see our partnership with Butcombe Brewery go to the next level. It’s always good when you can see the positive impact you have on a client’s business.”

Butcombe Brewery began life in 1978 when former Courage Western and Guinness Worldwide director Simon Whitmore decided to go it alone and opened a brewery attached to his home. For 18 years it only brewed one beer – Butcome Bitter (now called Butcombe Original).

In 2003 it was sold and moved from the village it took its name from to a purpose-built brewery in nearby Wrington.

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