Food manufacturer expands services after sales doubled in lockdown

A food manufacturer and wholesaler in Shrewsbury which saw sales soar through the lockdown period has been able to expand its services with the help of a six-figure deal.

Oriental Food Express, which supplies Asian food ingredients to restaurants and oriental supermarkets including Wing Yip, saw a significant increase in demand for its products immediately following the coronavirus outbreak as people spent lockdown experimenting with new dishes.

Its sales doubled in March compared with the same period last year, and were up by 60% in April.

The loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme (CBILS) from Lloyds Bank helped the business to ramp up production of its popular Chinese dumplings and Xiao Long Bao Buns, while investing in development of new flavours and varieties to expand its range.

As production increased, it was able to continue paying all staff wages, meaning that none of the forty staff at its Shrewsbury production site were placed on furlough or lost their jobs.

The funding has also been crucial in offsetting income lost from a drop in export sales, which normally account for around 40% of Oriental Food Express’s sales and which have been significantly affected by the pandemic.

The business is anticipating a longer-term dip in demand from international students who usually make up a big proportion of their target audience and may no longer be attending courses in the UK for the coming academic year.

Daniel Wang, general manager at Oriental Food Express, said: “We saw a huge spike in demand during the lockdown period, which presented a big opportunity for our business, but also meant we faced a number of operational challenges.

“The finance package provided by Lloyds Bank provided us with the cashflow we needed to react quickly to make the most of this demand. It will also help to provide us with extra support as we move forward and demand continues to fluctuate.”

Numan Rezaul, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Oriental Food Express is a fantastic example of a business that was able to quickly adapt to the changing landscape after the coronavirus outbreak, and reap the benefits as a result.

“We’re pleased that we have been able to support them during this time and will remain by their side as they face new challenges in the months ahead.”