A GLASGOW pizza wholesaler founded on supplying restaurants, schools and universities is frantically looking to diversify into the retail sector as it battles to survive the coronavirus crisis.

The Victor Pizza Company is working with Lidl on developing a new dough product which would allow shoppers to make pizza at home after seeing its normal routes to market cut off by the outbreak. It is also exploring ways of working with Aldi.

The moves comes after the family-owned firm, which usually makes 750,000 pizzas per month, was forced to put all but three of its 41 staff on furlough after trade collapsed on the back of social distancing measures imposed by government. Schools, universities and restaurants, the main routes to market for Victor pizzas, were ordered to close this month to halt the spread of the virus.

The collapse in trade has left the business, owned by Anne Marie Cairney and husband Paul, struggling to pay suppliers and access ingredients to continue production.

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Ms Cairney is frantically seeking new revenue streams and is hopeful of a new deal with Lidl, which approached Victor to see if it could help. However, it requires the firm, based in Calton in the north of Glasgow, to come up with new ready-for-retail packaging. She is currently exploring retail packaging solutions with WW Watson Packaging.

Ms Cairney said: “To change the business from wholesale to retail is very difficult. I’m not set up for it, I don’t have the right machinery, I don’t have shelf-ready packaging, I don’t have acetates to put doughballs in. I’m looking at lots of different things, [but] quite a lot of supermarkets are not interested because I am not cheap enough.

“But Lidl and Aldi, to be fair, have said, what can we do to help you? The guy from Lidl said, what can we do? What else do you have that’s a wee bit different that is value-added?

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“So I am looking at putting four doughballs in a bag and calling it the family pizza pack, so people can make their own [pizza]. They’re frozen and don’t need to be in shelf-ready packaging, but they need to be in some kind of packaging that tells the customer how to defrost them, how to cook them, what’s in them. It’s different.”

Ms Cairney said the business is in a race against time to freeze goods it has already made, with one customer who had ordered 26 pallets now saying it can no longer take them. Victor’s capacity to freeze stock has been reduced because it is having to close down an existing container. It has been supplying pizzas to help feed NHS workers at the 1051 GWR restaurant close to Gartnavel Hospital.

Ms Cairney hopes to regain chip shop trade, as some outlets begin to re-open. However, she fears there will be mass business closures and redundancies once the three-month furlough spell comes to an end. Companies can choose to make staff redundant at that stage.

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Ms Cairney said: “Things are changing so quickly. I can’t let that happen to my staff. I have to find something.

“My worry is what happens in three months? How many businesses are going to be here? What’s unemployment going to be like? How are we going to recover? The whole thing is absolutely ghastly.”

Ms Cairney has applied for a £25,000 grant through Glasgow City Council and has a three-month holiday on capital payments on funds borrowed to invest in machinery from the bank. While the banks are coming under pressure to lend under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, she said she does not want the pressure of taking on more debt at this stage.