Easters of Norwich | www.eastersofnorwich.com
Peter Easter of Easters of Norwich on how his fruit and veg business has diversified during the pandemic
With more than 40 years in the fresh fruit and veg business, Peter Easter has seen just about everything. His Norwich-based company has supplied restaurants, hotels, pubs and cafés with first class fresh produce from essentials like onions to seasonal treats such as everyone’s favourite, asparagus, plus strawberries and raspberries.
But the closure of hospitality last March presented a new and potentially devastating impact on his business and Peter had to act quickly to safeguard jobs at the family-run company. ‘I was concerned, very concerned about what we would do,’ he says. ‘I went into a local supermarket just as we went into lockdown and saw empty shelves – with no fruit and veg at all. I knew I could get it, knew that I had good supply lines, and thought of doing home deliveries; of getting it all straight to the public.’
The rest is really history, with Peter and his fleet of 16 vans delivering around 300 orders a week to homes across Norfolk and into Suffolk. At the height of last year’s lockdown this went up to 500 deliveries a week.
‘The response was and remains amazing,’ says Peter. ‘People are so grateful and really appreciate all that we do.’
The diversification started slowly, with orders over the phone for set boxes, but now there’s an all singing and dancing website and people can create their own bespoke boxes for delivery six days a week. ‘Yes, people do prefer to choose their own products,’ says Peter. ‘And the amount of what they want, too.’
The range of goods on offer has also expanded, with everything from lemon juice, flour, nuts, seeds, hummus, sauces, cereals, cheeses, dairy goods, eggs, rice, tinned tomatoes – and more all available.
‘We have just started to sell frozen Brick pizzas,’ says Peter, explained that they provide the Norwich-based pizza specialist with the raw ingredients and it completes the circle for Easters to now sell Brick’s finished pizzas!
‘People do like local products,’ he says. ‘And local cheeses are especially popular – we have about seven or eight of them. And we have Stokes Sauces from Suffolk, and cider vinegar from Norfolk Raider.’
At present juicy Seville oranges are catching the eye, along with root vegetables, many from Norfolk. ‘There are lots of potatoes, swedes, carrots, parsnips, and leeks – and curly kale.’
Orders can be accepted up to 9pm the night before, for next day delivery, with Peter also saying that they would always try to help out if people had a last minute request. ‘Give us a call,’ he says!
Also the minimum spend per order is officially £20 but again Peter says that rules can be broken. ‘We do whatever we can,’ he says.
Peter, who ran a convenience store in Norwich for 10 years prior to running his wholesale business, can’t be drawn on when he thinks hotels and restaurants might reopen but is certainly looking forward to working with those in the hospitality trade again. ‘We deliver daily to many of them so we have great relationships with them.’
But he plans to continue with his home deliveries, too. ‘It is the same concept, really, and they have been so popular, with many people now seeing a weekly home delivery as very much part of their life.’