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Helping Scotland’s oldest deli plan for a low-carbon future

Positive response from customers after completing £100,000 project

Francesca Contini, managing director of Valvona & Crolla, Scotland’s oldest delicatessen and holder of a Royal warrant to supply cheese to her Majesty, the Queen, decided to take her patrons on the journey with her when the company planned a £100,000 project to lower energy costs and become more energy efficient.

Major upgrades and modernisations were needed in this well-loved Edinburgh institution and it was important for the family that customers understood what was happening and felt part of the process. The unique character of the shop had to look and feel the same.

“We told our customers what we were planning in the run-up to the closure and then posted daily on social media throughout the project showing how progress was going,” says Francesca.

“When we finally reopened, we had the largest positive social media engagement in the company’s history and many excited customers coming in to see what we’d been up to.”

And Valvona & Crolla had been up to quite a lot.

Francesca is the great granddaughter of the family company’s founder, Alfonso Crolla, who opened for business in 1934 to serve the fledgling Italian community in Edinburgh and across Scotland.

The company ethos is rooted in sourcing sustainably produced products, supporting many small artisanal producers, and being environmentally conscious in everything it does.

In a review of its carbon footprint Francesca decided it was time for substantial alterations. She contacted the Energy Efficiency Business Support Service to see what help would be available for what was going to be a costly exercise to replace fridges, flooring, lighting and condensing units. An interest-free loan of £36,000 was approved, along with a grant of £6,000. The remainder of the project was financed through savings and working capital.

An additional cost to the business was the loss of trade while its doors were closed. A lot of background preparatory work was carried out in advance, with the main works planned for the quietest week of the year. The shop closed at 5pm on a Saturday and reopened at 9am the following Saturday.

It was important to retain the traditional look and feel of the business and this was helped by sourcing a fridge from Italy in the original design that dated back to the 1960s.

Francesca said: “We have only had half a year to assess the impact so far, but we have seen cost and energy savings ahead of what we had projected.”

Valvona and Crolla looks to be on target for £4,800-a-year cost saving with an annual carbon reduction of almost eight tonnes.

“Additional benefits have been increased product sales due to the improved displays and better LED lighting within the counter, and a fantastic customer response. 

“This was the biggest change to our front shop in over three decades, and really it hasn’t changed in 85 years, so my biggest fear was that our customers would feel that it wasn’t the same or that we have changed too much.

“So, it was really important that the character and feel of the shop was preserved while being state of the art with our equipment. For me, I knew the project was a success when one of our regular Saturday morning customers came in for his coffee and pastry, having had no idea that we had closed for a week, and didn’t even notice that anything had changed asking, ‘when are you starting the work?’.   

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Our free service for Scottish businesses is funded by the Scottish Government and by the European Regional Development Fund through the £73 million Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Accelerator Programme. The support provided to this organisation was delivered by Zero Waste Scotland’s Resource Efficient Scotland programme, which has been relaunched as Zero Waste Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Business Support Service as of 1 April 2020.

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