A NORTH East catering butcher and wholesale food company is bringing home the bacon, after focusing its attention on attracting regional customers. Darlington based Country Valley Foods is hoping that sales will sizzle over the summer months, after the launch of a marketing push designed to encourage customers in the North East to have fresh, locally sourced meat delivered to their door.

The business, which has been providing high quality fresh meat to the catering industry for more than 40 years, launched its fresh meat delivery website - www.countryvalley.co.uk - last year, and has seen customers from across the UK placing orders. But the business is keen to ensure people in the North East get the best deal, and is offering a number of incentives designed to boost local sales, including 10 percent off for first time customers and free north east delivery with a £20 spend. The company is also developing a recommend a friend website feature, with benefits for regular and new customers.

Joint Managing director, James Munro, whose father Stewart founded the company in 1971, said that the website had added a new dimension to the company's offer, opening up new national markets. However, he believes that growing the business' customer base in the North East is the real priority. Country Valley operates a network of refrigerated vehicles delivering to its catering and retail customers up to 6 days a week, so local website deliveries fit in to the operation perfectly.

He said: "We've grown significantly over the years, and this is down to the strong reputation we have established with restaurants, hotels, retail butchers and caterers right across the region. We're extremely proud of that, and we now want to make sure that everyone – not just catering & retail customers – can get access to locally sourced, restaurant-quality meat – particularly here in the North East.

"Our e-commerce website has been hugely beneficial, making it really easy for consumers to place their orders online. There's huge demand for high quality, locally sourced meat, and the site has allowed us to really tap into that. We're keen to make sure we build upon that and gain more North East customers"

The company was assisted in the development of its website by the North East Business Support Fund (NEBSF), a service administered by NBSL, which provides funding of up to 40 per cent on a project worth as much as £3,500. The funding allowed Country Valley Foods to invest in enhanced web functionality, including search engine optimisation, blog, email marketing and a competitions section, something that has proven popular with web users.

Mr Munro added: "The support we received from NEBSF was a real help in launching the website and without it we would have missed out on important functionality that we are using to engage customers.

"The process of accessing support from the NEBSF was simple and straightforward. They're really easy to work with and down to earth – many people are put off by the arduous paperwork normally associated with funding, but it was really easy to get the support."

The company has two facilities in the region, with its head office, cutting plant and website operation in Darlington, where restaurants, hotels and food producers are served with fresh, locally sourced meat and poultry. The company's other site in Billingham is where James's brother and joint MD Edward is based. From Billingham, the company serves retail butchers, education and healthcare providers, and other caterers with dry, chilled, frozen, and tinned goods. The Country Valley Foods Group also acquired retail butcher, Newboulds in 2007. Newboulds was established in 1856 and has seven branches around the Tees Valley, and a home delivery website.

Jonathan Barnes, North East business support adviser, said: "Country Valley Foods is an established business, with a very traditional offer, but one that is truly embracing e-commerce and social media to drive its sales and find new ways to reach its customers.

"It's fantastic that the website has opened up so many different avenues for the business, but also refreshing to hear that they're using that to create a compelling offer for locally based customers.

"We're delighted to have been able to help them with funding from the NEBSF. We've helped hundreds of businesses to undertake projects that have unlocked growth and there is still plenty of funding available for companies that – like Country Valley Foods – would like to realise their potential and grow."

Working with organisations right across the North East, NEBSF can provide 40 per cent funding - up to £1400 - towards a project worth up to £3500. Customers can use the funding for most types of business support that will help their business to grow - from marketing and web design to financial or human resources planning.

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