the (reluctant) price rise cometh
Good food, good farming and good business is what we are about at Riverford; it took hours of navel gazing to come up with, but I think it sums us up pretty well. We also feel strongly that our boxes should be affordable to everyone, so from the beginning we’ve worked hard to keep our prices down, but without compromising how we farm or the fair treatment of staff and suppliers. After doing our sums, we’ve concluded an average price rise of 3.4% (typically 44p per box) is necessary in January. The most significant factors are cardboard costs (up around 25% over the last two years), fuel and labour (we've had a pay freeze, but we need to give staff something next year). Veg from our boxes consistently come in around 20% cheaper than organic veg from the supermarkets, and some are even cheaper than conventional veg. With our free delivery to boot, we've still plenty to be proud of.
Prior to the recession we got close to becoming an employee-owned company, but in the end there was limited enthusiasm from staff and it all seemed horrendously complicated, so we shelved it. More recently I looked at us becoming a customer owned co-op, possibly with some equity being held by staff, suppliers and ethical investors; again it seemed unwieldy and did not inspire confidence. The final straw came when speaking to a group of my daughter’s university friends who didn’t see much difference between how The Cooperative and Tesco operate as supermarkets. Understandably, most people are inclined to trust individuals more than institutions, however ethical their constitutional aims. Given this lack of progress, I wanted to reassure those of you who share my discomfort with unbridled capitalism that my fundamental beliefs have not changed. This business will never be sold to venture capitalists, or anyone who is not intimately involved in determining its success. As none of my children show any interest (and I have mixed feelings about inherited wealth anyway), when the time comes for me to hang up my hoe and snap shut the laptop, I still intend to move the business into some form of stakeholder ownership. Should you still be munching on our veg at that time, I may well be tapping you up for a small investment.