Coronavirus: Northumberland's Heatherslaw Mill sees 10-fold rise in demand for flour as panic buying leaves supermarket shelves bare

A Northumberland mill has seen an unprecedented demand for its flour after supermarket shelves were decimated by panic buying.

Thursday, 19th March 2020, 11:45 am

Heatherslaw Mill, on Ford and Etal Estates, has seen a 10-fold increase in sales and, as a result, is struggling to maintain stocks as the coronavirus outbreak drives up demand.

“It’s become insane,” said head miller Dave Harris-Jones. “All our normal shops have put in orders, even though they only had deliveries two weeks ago.

“Most places would get deliveries every four to six weeks but some of our best customers such as Moorhouse Farm at Stannington and Blagdon Farm have wanted more than usual.”

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Dave Harris-Jones from Heatherslaw Mill Picture by Jane Coltman

There has also been an upsurge in mail orders requests from customers old and new, while there have been more people calling in on spec even though the mill is not due to open for the new visitor season until later this month.

“It’s been nice seeing a few people that we know,” said Dave. “Mind, we also had a couple who came in to buy flour and then asked us how to make bread which was hilarious!”

He revealed that Heatherslaw Mill would normally expect wholesale sales of about £14,000 per year.

“We’ve probably had £1,000 this week alone which goes some way to show what it’s been like,” he said. “We might also see a handful of people calling by and buying £10 worth but we sold £100 worth so there’s been a 10-fold rise in demand.”

The main problem he now faces is keeping up with demand.

“I’ve been really busy because I want to make sure our long-standing customers and loyal shops don’t run out but there’s only me, a water mill and one set of stones,” he said.

“It’s been great in some respects but an absolute nightmare in others. We will try to supply as many people as possible but what I don’t want is for people to put the flour at the back of their cupboard and find it in six months’ time.

“Hopefully this will make people think about buying local and there might be a long-term positive to all of this.”