The Geelong Advertiser Monday 19th October 2020

Nicole Newman, owner of the Food Purveyor and Tara Fragiotta packing hampers. Picture: Glenn Ferguson

Long before this pandemic started re-educating consumers about the concept of value, Nicole Newman was a passionate ambassador for the benefits of quality, locally-made artisan produce.

They are the principles her Geelong-based business, The Food Purveyor, was founded on in 2012.

But does having been around for a long time matter when there is a surge of businesses, and even governments, suddenly creating online platforms in this pandemic that promise to do what you have been, in this case giving artisan producers access to broader markets?

Ms Newman said it absolutely matters.

“Because we have longevity, people trust us and they trust our commitment to it,” she said.

“We haven’t just come out with a hashtag about it, it’s something we have been spruiking for a really long time; they get it.”

Ms Newman said that COVID-19 had underlined appreciation for a product’s provenance and the value of supporting artisan producers and agribusiness to local economies for their direct employment and their flow-on to tourism and hospitality.

“The stuff I was rabbiting on about in 2012, and no one really cared, people really care now,” Ms Newman said.

She said people looking to support Victorian producers had trust in the Food Purveyor’s offering of hampers and gift baskets of quality artisan produce and demand had surged in the past six months.

This ability has led Ms Newman to partner on two important projects this year which have significantly diversified her business.

The Loddon shire, northwest of Bendigo, engaged the Food Purveyor to develop the Loddon Shed program and online business One Hour Out, based in the Yarra Valley, engaged it for co-packing of hampers.

Ms Newman said work on the Loddon Shed started last year with a range of producers and key teams in the shire involved in developing a collective food project.

Because the project was in play before COVID-19, it was fully prepared to go when the website launched earlier this year.

“We were very planned, very clear about what we were doing, and we were able to work with all the producers to make sure they met all the regulations,” she said.

Using Geelong marketing firm Arthur St Digital, the project involved the creation of a brand, logo and website with the Food Purveyor supplying the back-end packaging and delivery service.

Ms Newman said the result had exceeded the expectations of the 20 producers who are selling about 100 products through the Loddon Shed.

“They were hoping to do $5000 in three months, and we did $7500 in a month,” she said.

Ms Newman is hoping other shires will look to reproduce the model in their local areas.

COVID-19 as also led to a surge in the number of corporate clients wanting gift hampers for staff and sometimes that has involved a rapid ramp up of supplies to meet the orders of 300-400 hampers per client.

“There’s a lot that goes into that, but that’s why we are unique in what we do,” Ms Newman said.