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Food & Beverage
About Riverford Organic Farmers
What is Riverford and what services does it provide?
This company grows and packs a range of organic food, which is delivered to approximately 60,000 UK homes each week.
Riverford was founded in 1987 by Guy Singh-Watson, who started growing organic vegetables on his parents’ Devon farm and delivering them to friends locally in his car. Since then the business has grown steadily and taken on little debt while it’s done so. It has four farms in England and one in France, as well as a network of growers and suppliers from which it purchases produce.
Around 85 per cent of its products are fruit and vegetables, which are mainly from the UK.
Today, customers can choose from seasonal boxes of fruit and vegetables and meat; vegan, vegetarian and meat recipe boxes; plus summer fruit bags, milk, eggs and bread. For ultimate convenience, customers can order online through their individual accounts, as well as view a comprehensive list of recipes on the Riverford website.
In 2018 the business became employee-owned and a structure was set up similar to the one introduced by John Lewis Partnership in 1929. The Riverford co-owners, as employees are known, own 74 per cent of the company, with Guy Singh-Watson retaining the remaining 26 per cent.
Guy still plays an active part in the development of the business and is proud of the fact he still spends more time in the fields than in the boardroom. He’s twice been awarded BBC Radio 4 Farmer of the Year.
Riverford has three core values - stronger together, do things well and independence. Through its charity partnerships, it donates money, expertise and produce to Send a Cow, FoodCycle, Food in Community and The Riverford Veg Fund.
In 2015 the delivery scheme won the Observer’s Ethical Product of the Decade Award.
The company has been a full member of the British Franchise Association since 2002 and has a nationwide network of over 50 franchisees.
How does the Riverford franchise model work?
Franchisees are provided with a tried and tested system of operating a Riverford business that has been refined and developed over three decades. They are also supported throughout the duration of their partnership by head office and field-based staff.
Depending on the size of the business, some franchisees operate from commercial premises, while others work from home. Each one is given an exclusive trading territory that’s been defined by the franchisor, while all customer orders are processed at one of Riverford’s supply hubs and dispatched to franchisees weekly.
The franchisor is responsible for introducing new products and services to keep the brand relevant in a competitive and growing market.
How much does it cost to become a Riverford franchisee?
The start-up cost is around £40,000.
Is third party funding available?
Yes, in most cases. Although bank and similar funding is subject to status.
For an established franchise such as Riverford, which has a track record of success, some banks will lend prospective franchisees up to 70 per cent of the start up costs.
What training and support do Riverford franchisees receive?
All operational and administrative aspects of the franchise are covered during Riverford’s initial five-day training programme, including organic farming methods, customer acquisition and retention, effective marketing techniques, online ordering systems, and payments and accounts methods.
Franchisees are helped to launch their businesses through PR and local leafleting campaigns. In addition, they are given access to Riverford’s experienced field support and head office based customer service teams. Support is also available from other franchisees in the network.
Regional business development meetings are organised on a regular basis and a franchisee mentoring scheme is in place if required.
What is the role of a Riverford franchisee?
Franchisees split their time between the office and being out on the road delivering to customers. Some franchisees employ delivery drivers, depending on the size of their business.
Office duties include managing staff, dealing with general business admin, planning routes, answering customer enquiries and promoting the service. As well as social media marketing and local leaflet drops, franchisees attend local and regional events, shows and festivals to raise their profile, many of which take place at weekends.
Are home delivery services such as the one offered by Riverford better for the environment than people shopping for themselves individually?
They are, according to a study by Exeter University, which found that by reducing the number of vehicles on the road a home delivery service like Riverford’s is more efficient and environmentally friendly than people travelling individually to shop for food.
Riverford has gone to great lengths to reduce vehicle emissions by planning all routes to minimise distances travelled and using fuel-efficient vehicles. It is also currently trialling electric vehicles on its London routes and plans to convert approximately 70 per cent of the company’s vehicle fleet to electric.
Where in the UK is the Riverford franchise based?
The company’s headquarters are in Buckfastleigh, Devon.
Why is Riverford a good investment?
On top of providing investors with a high profile brand name, proven franchise opportunity and efficient systems of operation, the company combines the convenience of home delivery with the chance to purchase locally grown, competitively priced, organic food.
With the rise of businesses such as Just East and Deliveroo, home delivery is becoming an integral part of many peoples’ lives, particularly millennials. In some ways, box delivery services like Riverford are benefiting from this popularity.
The Soil Association’s Organic Market Report revealed that the UK organic market was worth £2.5 billion in 2019, following a 4.5 per cent rise in sales. The study also highlighted that home delivery and online channels grew 11 per cent.
Another interesting piece of information from the Soil Association is that between 2018 and 2019 searches for ‘organic box scheme’ on its website increased 174 per cent, indicating that there is a healthy demand for the Riverford service.
During the coronavirus crisis, the company said demand for its home delivery service hit record levels.
What experience do I need to become a Riverford franchisee?
No previous experience is required, as full training is provided.
However, franchisees must be passionate about food, possess first class customer service skills and committed to providing a reliable service, which in turn means a high customer retention rate and the potential for referrals. They must also be physically fit and entrepreneurial.
Ideally, franchisees will come from professional roles in areas such as IT, marketing, sales and finance.
How can I get started on setting up my own Riverford business?
Complete the enquiry form on this page and a member of the Riverford franchise recruitment team will be in touch and provide further information on the opportunity.
All franchisees go through an in depth recruitment process to determine whether they have the funds, skills and ambition to become a Riverford franchisee. The process also enables prospective candidates to find out as much as possible about the opportunity and whether they will be able to form a successful, long term partnership with the franchisor and its support staff.
Request Free Information
Send a free enquiry to Riverford Organic Farmers for further information!