January 15, 2021

Food brands make flexible workers key part of their hiring strategies

Food and drink brands, ranging from household names to scale-ups, are increasingly turning to a flexible workforce. They are facing the double whammy of having to meet the supply challenges caused by the spike in Covid-19 cases alongside the usual high demand in the run-up to Christmas.

Lorna Davidson, CEO of Liverpool-based Redwigwam, the UK’s largest flexible working community, said: “Coronavirus has had a huge impact on all businesses and the FMCG sector has been on the frontline. A second wave of Covid-19 cases combined with Peak is stretching the industry to its limits.

“The need for huge numbers of flexible, temporary workers is high, partly to meet the increased demands of customers but also to combat the challenge of existing workers having to isolate at home.

“Having access to a pool of talented flexible workers gives companies the scope to turn on and off their hiring to meet the changing needs of the business.”

Lorna Davidson of Redwigwam

Burton’s Biscuits, which traces its history back to the mid-1800s, is one company stepping up its use of flexible workers.

Jo Harwood, Sales Director of Burton’s, said: “Flexible workers give us more control giving us staff when we need them.

“More and more companies are turning to flexible workers. Flexible working means people get a better work-life balance. They can do the school run as well as work whereas five or ten years ago it was one or the other.”

“When short term issues arise in supermarkets, we need to be able to react quickly to understand what’s going on in terms of whether products are in store and where in store. We can contact Redwigwam and within 24 hours they can send someone out to every store in the country.

“We have recently launched new products such as orange Wagon Wheels and we wanted to know that the NPD (New Product Development) had got out to stores quickly and whether stores had launched as planned.”

Wills Jennings, Sales Controller at Burton’s, said: “The reality is that temporary working is morphing into flexible working and we are seeing this more and more as people are looking for greater flexibility in their lives.

“There is an increasing appetite for flexible working as businesses have to re-evaluate costs and overheads. Flexible working becomes more important as it gives you the option to turn on or off as appropriate for the business.

“People’s increasing appetite to work flexibly also means a bigger talent pool to choose from. It gives us the ability to be reactive. If we have a brief around NPD or a stock challenge, we can contact Redwigwam and we can get a solution quickly, in real-time. They can help us with traditional field sales such as auditing our core range in stores – the ROI on this has been fantastic.

“But there has also been a paradigm shift online and one of the services they offer is online optimisation support to ensure our presence online is as strong as it is in store.

“The final piece is the market audits which we are able to set up quickly in a select number of stores.

“While we are focusing on the day-to-day, we have a ready-made solution that we can turn on – it gives us that extra 10%.”

Food scale-up Proper is another brand that uses Redwigwam. Established in 2011 and employing over 45 people, the company has been working with Redwigwam for over a year.

Ben Till, Commercial Manager at Proper, said: “Our founder (Cassandra Stavrou) has always championed flexibility and it is in our culture. A lot of our work is governed by seasonal activations, maybe three-to-six-week promotions. This requires extra feet on the ground and a flexible workforce that can be switched on and off is really useful.

“The increase in demand during Covid was incredible both online and in-store. The challenge was to meet that demand and to ensure stock was landing in-store.

“We’ve used Redwigwam a huge amount of times with jobs ranging from ensuring physical stock is set up correctly to ad hoc store visits and ensuring products are presented in the best possible way. Jobs are always turned around quickly and provide the insight we need as a business. We have switched on jobs and had them completed in less than 48 hours.

“For a scale-up business, they have the reach to get into retailers and give us national visibility.”

Redwigwam uses an AI-powered online platform to match its flexible working community with hirers. It has over 130,000 workers registered on its platform, while 3,500 businesses have signed up to tap into the company’s talent pool of quality workers.