Our Suppliers: Rod & Ben's
Name: Sarah Benthall
Job Title: Sales Manager
Nickname: Not sure I have one - although I'm possibly not brave enough to ask!
Time in Role: 2 years or 2 months depending on how you view it!
Favourite part of the Job:
Meeting customers at the shows and finding new soups for them to fall in love with. I also love working on a farm in Devon, on a sunny day I can have a meeting outside and catch some rays while enjoying some beautiful views.
Apart from the soup at work anything with chocolate in it.
Why I like WestCountry:
We have a really pro-active relationship and I really think they get to know the end customer and link suppliers well.
Unusual fact about me:
I once made the BBC News because I forced the queen to look at my drawing before she could do anything else!!
My own coffeeshop on a beach in Thailand with a boat to go diving whenever I wanted!
Oh and Tom Hardy as the boat boy!!!
Which Rod & Ben’s product best represents me and why?
I’ve asked the office to help with this one, the general opinion is the Smoked haddock Chowder but only because I have refined taste and I’m the most expensive!
Whose idea was it to make a range of organic seasonal foods & how did it come about?
Rod and Ben went to agricultural college together and together set up a veg box scheme in 1997. Realising they had left over, less pretty vegetable they started making soup in the kitchen on the Farm. As organic farmers they were passionate about honest, tasty, wholesome foods. This has grown over time to the successful stand-alone business it is today but still making the handmade soup using the best ingredients.
Who is your range suitable for?
EVERYONE. Seriously, everything we make is 100% Organic, Gluten Free and very often Vegan. I think young and old love good homemade soup, especially when we hit the colder months. What better way to get part of your 5 a day and they are low in calories so help the lockdown load!!
What’s the strangest customer request you’ve had?
Not had any strange requests, our customers seem to be pretty normal! But in a previous job someone complained when I took them scuba diving in the Caribbean, apparently the sea was too salty!!!
Top 3 best sellers for retail?
Sweet Potato, Spinach & Puy Lentil, it has got an amazing subtle spice and really filling for a long day. Honey Glazed Root Vegetable, it’s a like a warm, sweet treat but also good for you. Moroccan Vegetable, our newest family member, makes you feel like you are on holiday!
Top 3 ‘must have’ flavours for food service & why…?
I would always suggest a chicken soup, possibly our Roast Chicken, Lemon and Thyme, it’s virtually impossibly to find good quality organic chicken soup so it really makes you stand out. I think our Italian Tomato soup is a great menu option, it is vegan but with the addition of some grilled cheese on a sourdough slice it becomes a vegetarian meal in itself. Our Red Russian kale, spinach and Chickpea is our biggest seller for cafes, I am not surprised as it’s my favourite and is like a whole meal in itself.
If you knew then what you know now what would you do differently?
This is the hardest question!
From a personal point of view I think I’d not take for granted dinners with friends and seeing live music- I miss busy, noisy places where you wait to be served while chatting at the bar and complain about your feet hurting!
From a Rod and Ben’s point of view, I think we try really hard to read the market and reflect that in our products. I feel the drive to healthy eating is growing so much now we are in a good position to really focus on that. We are missing that face-to-face interaction so I think we might remember those trips to see people with more affection now!
Covid 19 specific question – what’s the most positive thing you will take away from this time?
I like that business and organisations are being more understanding and accepting of the work/life balance especially for women. Rod and Ben’s have always been fantastic in that regard, but I have friends who have really struggled and I thinking being able to work from home has really helped. I have also loved the lack of traffic and pollution; the air feels clearer!
The biggest positive has to be the NHS though surely. For years it’s been taken for granted and during Covid people showed respect to the hardworking people who basically we can’t live without.
What’s next for Rod & Ben’s?
We’ve just launched a range of Food-To-Go pots. They are 390g so just over half our normal pot size and the perfect single portion. They are in the following flavours, Sweet Potato, Spinach & Puy Lentil, Italian Tomato, Puy Lentil & Spinach and Moroccan Vegetable. If these are as successful as we hope, then we may launch some more flavours in this size. Covid has been tricky for many businesses and we have fared well considering. However, the cafes and business we supply around the country have been massively affected so we are looking at new products that we can develop that may work better in the ‘new normal’.