The UK’s expanding love affair with all things Halloween is open season for one of the UK’s biggest pumpkin growers, who are moving more than a million fruit in just four weeks.
It’s one of the busiest times of the year for Barfoots of Botley who, together with supply chain partner IPP, are responsible for delivering four different types of pumpkins into the UK’s supermarkets.
At its busiest time in 2022, the Bognor Regis-based company delivered the equivalent of 40 lorry loads of pumpkins in one day.
Paul Chilton, the company’s head of logistics and planning, said the UK’s growing love of all things Halloween has led to year-on-year growth for pumpkin deliveries throughout its eight-year relationship with IPP.
Coventry-based IPP, one of Europe’s leading poolers of pallets and boxes, works with market gardeners and growers across the country to deliver pumpkins into the nation’s supermarkets, as well as delivering tens of millions of confectionery
buckets for doorstep trick or treaters.
Paul said: “Along with the summer sweetcorn season, this is one of our busiest times of the year. We’re moving more than a million pumpkins, which are used for carving, cooking and decoration.
“The biggest of the lot is the carving pumpkin, which accounts for around 750,000 of the pumpkins we grow and move.
“The vast majority of these are distributed over just four weeks. It’s a huge technical challenge getting everything lined up for effectively one day.”
Paul said IPP’s ability to work in a dynamic, responsive way was key to successfully moving its goods around the country, along with the quality of the pallets themselves.
As well as pumpkins, the company specialises in exotic vegetables such as sweetcorn, asparagus, sweet potato and butternut squashes.
He added: “We get much better service and a much better quality of pallet than we had from our previous supplier. IPP is one of our biggest suppliers of returnable assets, and the one I need to worry about least!
“Compared to what we were used to before we joined IPP, we now get 100 times fewer broken pallets than before.”
The two companies also work hand-in-hand to provide the extra resources needed to deal with the short, sharp spike in activity.
“We grow a lot of pumpkins on our farms in the south, plus we have a partner farm in the Midlands which IPP delivers pallets to.
“Pumpkins are a temperamental crop – if they don’t get water, they don’t grow big, and if they get too much water they start to rot. It’s quite a technical challenge getting this all ready for effectively one day.
“It’s a very dynamic situation, but responsiveness and reactiveness are part of the day job for IPP, and they don’t try and make out that it is something special.
“The pumpkins are the thing that drags people into supermarkets, and while they’re there they buy costumes and sweets and the like. It’s a really important time of year for our customers.”
Shelley Pierre, commercial director at IPP, said: “We know how popular Halloween has become in the UK, and the huge volumes of pumpkins we move for Barfoots of Botley just prove that.
“It’s a great partnership which works on the flexibility, customer service and quality of product that we’re known for.”