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Business & Economy

New food service founded in 24 hours with Teesside University support

A longstanding relationship with a university has helped a food supplier mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Direct Line Supplies (DLS) says the ingrained skills and knowledge accumulated from a 12-year partnership with Teesside University helped it launch a new delivery service in less than 24 hours.

Bosses say Orchard Vine Foods delivers restaurant quality food in retail packs from temperature-controlled vehicles while observing social distancing requirements.

Thornaby-based DLS is known for working with more than 300 suppliers to provide in excess of 1200 different products.

However, the closure of the hospitality sector in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in the company losing nearly 60 per cent of its regular business.

DLS decided to focus on its remaining 40 per cent of customers in the takeaway sector and looked to set up a domestic delivery service.

The university has worked in partnership with DLS since 2008 on a range of student placements, graduate recruitment and specific innovation and growth projects.

The most recent joint project is a 12-month Growth Associate Project (GAP), which began in January to develop a supply chain management system with automation capabilities, as part of the company’s continuous improvement of service delivery.

GAPs are one of the offers from Grow Tees Valley, an ERDF-funded programme of support for ambitious companies in the Tees Valley looking to adopt new products or services.

Nathan Williams, a computer science student was placed as an associate in the company under the supervision of Barry Hebbron, an Enterprise Fellow in the School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies, to work on the project as part of his final year assessment.

When the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak became apparent, DLS was able to pivot quickly to set up Orchard Vine Foods.

Pedram Salahshouri, director of DLS, says the ongoing partnership with Teesside University was a major factor in that success.

He said: “Our ambitions and projects undertaken for the last 12 years have excelled with the support and strong relationship with Teesside University who we see as a crucial extension of our team.

“More, now than ever, with the changes taking place globally, we could not wish for a more professional and structured support network that can help us evolve and adapt at an elevated rate equal to the speed of any change we face.

“As the world changes right before our eyes, we have been forced to fight or flight for the existence of our business. What is a scary and unprecedented situation today, we hope to be a story of resilience and defiance next year.

“With the support of the university and the investment into our tech and dev division, we secured the skillset, capability and encouragement to adapt a change of our whole operation within 24 hours. Thus Orchard Vine Foods was born.”

Suhail Aslam [pictured], programme manager for Grow Tees Valley, added: “The Grow Tees Valley project has been designed to target Tees Valley SMEs that have ambitions to significantly grow their business through the development of existing, or new, products or services into new sectors and markets.

“DLS has quickly responded to the COVID-19 challenge and utilised the Grow Tees Valley project to help access the right support and expertise to navigate through the challenges and opportunities this has created.”