County Supplies was named Foodservice Supplier of the Year at the FPC Fresh Awards on September 16.
The annual awards ceremony for the fruit, vegetable and flower sectors was held at Grosvenor House on Park Lane and run by trade association, Fresh Produce Consortium, to recognise high-achieving companies and individuals across the fresh produce sectors.
For nearly 20 years, independent family business County Supplies has supplied London’s restaurants and prestigious kitchens from its base at New Covent Garden Market.
The 24/7 operation serves more than 500 customers, 70% of which have been clients for 5+ years. It provides chefs, F&B managers, Zookeepers and nutritionists with daily insights into menu planning, produce availability and seasonality.
“Our philosophy has always been to provide the best possible service to meet the unique and specific requirements of our clients – whether its sourcing, picking or delivery,” said Managing Director Robert Hurren.
“Every day we hand pick from over 2,500 fruits, vegetables, dairy, dry and frozen lines to ensure that our produce looks, smells and tastes great. Expertise in delivery logistics is part of what makes our service exceptional. We understand how important it is that deliveries are both accurate and timely, and we’re especially proud to report a 99.8% GARMIN delivery rate. Whatever our clients need, we pick, pack and deliver on time.
“We also make certain that every order – from schools to Michelin Star restaurants – receives the same first-class treatment,” added Hurren. This high level of service is made possible by an expert management team who, collectively, have 150+ years’ experience in buying and operations. They’re further supported by our wider 50+-strong team who follow the highest quality sustainability procedures, as recognised by LEAF and Red Tractor certifications and BRC AA accreditation.
County Supplies was also recognised for its vision of a greener future, said Hurren. “Becoming more environmentally aware means needing to know where our food comes from. Chefs need to know the origins of their ingredients while tuning into food miles and becoming conscious about the number of deliveries they require. To support this, we educate chefs on seasonality – knowing when fruit and vegetables are at their peak flavour and ripeness – and widely encourage them to reduce ongoing packaging waste.”
The firm has also put a lot of time and effort into understanding and reducing its own environmental footprint. To combat waste, the County Supplies team encourages kitchens to use recyclable brown bags and returnable crates, advises how best to decant fresh produce and recycle excess boxes and provides ways to only use plastic packaging where necessary.
Hurren said: “We also work with customers to reduce the number of deliveries, resulting in a positive impact on our emissions. In 2021 we added our first electric light vehicle to our fleet and, as the commercial van and lorry market transitions to electric, we hope to run a fully electric fleet by 2030.”
The sustainability of the fresh produce it supplies is paramount too. Not all produce has to look perfect. We live in a world where everything is always available, with three million tonnes of fruit and veg wasted every year. This means farmers are left with surplus produce, no matter how good a grower they are. Whether it’s due to over-supply or failing to meet specifications, perfectly tasty produce that is ready to eat simply goes to waste.
“From purple sprouting broccoli to spuds, we supply delicious, tasty produce that would otherwise be destined for landfill or left to rot in fields,” Hurren said. “Each week, to reduce unnecessary waste, our sister business County Surplus works with farmers and wholesalers who have excess fresh produce.
“County Surplus is our way of supplying fresh sustainable produce daily to our customers. Working with a network of growers we supply the absolute best seasonal produce, helping to reduce waste.”
The third arm to the environment-friendly strategy is a desire to sell the best of British whenever possible, he added. “To meet customer needs, we source produce from around the world. However, we’re particularly proud to work with a selection of top British growers. We know we’re only as good as the produce we sell — that’s why we always aim to source the best local produce to help keep our food miles low. What that means is that the cauliflower we supplied earlier today was more than likely in the ground less than 24 hours ago.
“Our success wouldn’t be possible without our long-term local partners. From independent growers like Watkins Farm in Lancashire and Portwood Farm in Norfolk to some of our bigger partners around the country, we couldn’t supply the best produce without their support. We especially love taking chefs to meet our farmers so they can learn more about the processes of how their produce is grown,” said Hurren.
“Life is made from the people we encounter, and we are incredibly proud of our trusted network of growers, suppliers and customers. When we say we take the time to develop a personal relationship with our people, it’s not just sales talk. We’re able to provide a first-class service because we know what they need and how we can provide it to them. It’s the personal touch that goes into everything — right down to each box that we hand pick, hand pack and hand deliver.”