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The Great British Biscuit Shortage

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Our local supermarket has no Ginger Nuts on the shelves. Custard Creams are in pretty short supply too.

Maybe you’ve experienced similar. An online survey conducted by The Telegraph suggests that 52% of us have noticed that the UK is currently undergoing a biscuit shortage, and the ‘biscuit famine’ story is being reported lightheartedly everywhere, from the BBC to mumsnet.com, where the topic thread reads “Help: What’s Going On With Biscuits!”

What’s going on is actually pretty serious. Storm Desmond and the massive floods across the North of England in late 2015 caused significant disruption to homes and businesses, not least the United Biscuits factory, in Caldewgate, Carlisle, Cumbria.

This is a facility that employs around 600 people, and it’s here they make many of the UK’s best-loved brands, including McVities, Crawford's, Jacobs and Carrs. Two months and counting on, and production is still suspended, and reports suggest the insurance claim may be as high as £50m.

United Biscuits is no cottage industry, of course. Formerly listed on the London Stock Exchange, the company is one of the world’s biggest snack producers, with revenues in excess of £1bn. So let’s not forget the significantly smaller businesses, the SMEs that help drive the local economy, who must be facing similar but rather less publicised difficulties.

The factory closure is proof that events beyond your control – from power cuts to changing regulations to currency fluctuations – can be devastating for a business, whatever its size.

There’s another point here, too, and it’s to do with the oldest rule in business: supply and demand. I don’t want to sound ruthless, but those supermarket shelves need stacking with other products. There will be high-level conversations happening right now to determine what can be done until production starts again.

Somewhere, an entrepreneur is sensing an opportunity. I suspect that new ideas, new products, new services, and new businesses will follow.

One to mull over in your next tea-break, perhaps?

Dave Rebbettes's picture
Posted Feb 2016
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