They say “You can take the person out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the person.”
This is certainly true when it comes to British and Irish expats living in France. Many retain a love for the food they grew up with. Food like bacon, gammon, pork sausages, black pudding, mature cheeses, pies, steak, clotted cream and many more.
It is also this longing for favourite food from “home” that inspired John Marsden to start his company Bacon by the Box in 2010. At the time, John was living in the Calvados region in Normandy, France. He says he realised that expats “were having problems finding decent bacon” that they had become accustomed to in Britain and Ireland. He pounced on the opportunity to fulfil this need. Initially he supplied only British bacon and gammon. Soon enough he was getting requests for other quality produce including cheese, sausages, beef, cream, and pies.
In the early days, the business served only Normandy and Brittany. But as orders grew, the distribution expanded to the rest of the west coast and further south. All the deliveries, made every two weeks, were done by John himself.
Largest refrigerated home delivery network
Today, Bacon by the Box is the largest refrigerated home delivery network across mainland Europe. It does home deliveries throughout France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Bulk pallet drops are done in other countries including Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.
The home delivery market represents by far the largest portion of Bacon by the Box’s business. The company also supplies pubs, restaurants, expat shops and cafés. John says many customers also order as part of “buying groups.” Expats and neighbours group together to place one order. Furthemore, the French are also discovering these great British and Irish products!
Bacon by the Box’s product offering includes a variety of fresh meat and dairy products. Moreover, there’s now also a wide range of dry goods. This was introduced following requests from the group’s loyal customer base. Whats more, new products are regularly added to the website.
Bacon by the Box only works with top quality producers who consistently provide products of a high standard. These suppliers include Clonakilty, Mogerley Pies, McColgan’s and Lisduggan Farm Foods.
Bacon by the Box settles in Waterford, Ireland
Shane Kavanagh from Waterford, Ireland, got involved in the business in 2019. They had been friends for several years through their mutual interest in driving horses.
“I bought two Shire horses from John. I went to France to collect them, and ended up staying with him for a couple of days. John then came over to Ireland to have a look at my horses. And we’ve been friends ever since,” says Shane. With the onset of Brexit and with John getting more and more requests for Irish produce, Shane’s connections became invaluable. The led to the business eventually moving to Ireland.
Bacon by the Box Ireland sent out its first order in February 2020. This coincided with a new website with improved functionality to facilitate online buying and the general administration of orders and other business processes.
Chronofresh partnership opens door to countrywide delivery in France
The company moved to a completely new delivery system in France. This meant that John didn’t have to drive thousands of miles each week to personally deliver packages. The new delivery system incorporated Chronofresh – Chronopost’s division for fresh products. Initially, home deliveries were done every two weeks. But as demand grew, the business moved to weekly deliveries.
Using Chronofresh means produce can be shipped to every corner of France. They offer continuous tracking and temperature regulations, providing customers with regular updates and delivery security. Prior to this, deliveries were limited to wherever John could physically get to, which was mainly the west coast and southern France. The new delivery system has seen the business grow from 40 orders a fortnight in February 2020, to about 200 orders a week in 2021.
COVID pandemic has huge impact on the company’s growth for 2021
“COVID meant that people were at home most of the time. This ramped up the online retail market which naturally also benefited our business. It ‘forced’ people who would usually avoid the internet into buying the products they desired. Our products also offered expats a little taste of home while they were restricted from travelling to the UK and Ireland,” adds Shane.
Shane attributes much of the firm’s growth to the many years of hard work that John put in establishing a loyal customer base in France.
Word of mouth, Facebook help to bring more customers on board
What makes Bacon by the Box’s progress over the years so impressive is that it has been achieved with very little paid marketing. In fact, much of the growth has been through word of mouth. And in the last few years, Facebook and the company’s regular newsletter, have been used to gain increased traction.
The Bacon by the Box team places a premium on customer service. “Customer service is very important. We are very empathetic with all our customers when it comes to dealing with any questions they may have. In most cases we respond to queries on the day they are made.”
Shane echoes John’s sentiments: “The customer is always right. In the long run we believe we benefit from offering each individual a positive experience. We recognise their names. We recognise their addresses. And we know where they live. As strange as it may sound, it feels like a small community shop.”
Bacon by the Box differs from the traditional online retailer in that it sells fresh produce, with a relatively short shelf life. When customers place an order on a weekly basis – the deadline being every Thursday at midnight – everything is sent to the respective food producers who will freshly manufacture the items.
After receiving the fresh produce from the suppliers, each individual order is packed and shipped out to customers.
From the order deadline, it normally takes 12 days to reach customers’ front doors. This all happens in a chilled environment, which is held between 0°C – 4°C, from the supplier to the customer’s doorstep.
Transparent pricing simplifies ordering process
Ordering from Bacon by the Box requires a minimum order of €100 which includes free shipping. “The price a customer sees when ordering is the price he/she pays. It includes VAT and shipping. There are no hidden charges. We like the pricing to be clean and simple which makes it easier for the customer and for us”, says John.
All orders above €150 are eligible for freebie products on the Bacon by the Box website.
Shane says they are ideally suited for further expansion into European countries where there is a solid expat footprint. “We regularly receive requests for the extension of our distribution to regions where we are not yet active. However, we only commit if we can ensure speedy, refrigerated delivery all the way to the customer’s doorstep. Unfortunately, these chilled delivery services are not available everywhere.”
The invention of the bacon rasher in Waterford, Ireland by Henry Denny back in 1846, sparked a new era for the preserved distribution and export of pork. And going by the solid performance in the last few years since Bacon by the Box moved to Waterford, it may just be that history is repeating itself.
Find out more and order your favourites to be delivered to your doorstep at: baconbythebox.com