With winter approaching, the clocks changing this weekend, and the prospect of spending more time with family around the roaring fire increasing, one ambitious Galway-based company has seen a major boost in demand for its products, capping off a remarkable year.
The progressive Ecofuel company which supplies imported kiln-dried firewood and sustainable Wood Briquettes and organic charcoal and firelighters started the year with plans to expand using its off-season quiet time, but lockdown and working from home meant that they have been flat out all year trying to meet demand. Yet, they still managed to fulfil their expansion plans into the capital.
In summertime which is normally quiet on the firewood front, Ecofuel had to meet a major demand for charcoal as more people stayed at home and had barbecues and fire pits when temperatures soared and restaurants closed.
“Because we sell fuel, we’re in the essential category so we were able to continue operating (with special measures in place ). Other companies were less fortunate and I know some have had a tough time,” said Ecofuel’s Marc Eglon.
“During Lockdown, we got to see a glimpse of a possible future of less traffic, less pollution, more flexible working, and more time spent with family, some of the positives to come out of this pandemic.
“Summer is typically our low-season. But as going outside often meant going into the garden, we saw a lot more people buying firewood for their firepits. And as BBQ became the new al fresco dining, we sold a lot of organic charcoal,” he said.
The company has long been promoting an ethos of sustainability, ranging from their products to how they see them used in every day life, and the arrival of the pandemic presented them with an opportunity to further this.
“Ecommerce was already growing and the pandemic has simply accelerated that trend. Customers are also increasingly conscious of their impact on the environment. People don’t want to use coal and turf anymore and are looking towards more sustainable fuels like our EcoBriquettes and pinikay logs, made from recycled sawdust from saw mills.
“Our product lends itself well to ecommerce - our DoubleDeck pallets can weigh a metric ton and our city bags are heavy and bulky so it makes perfect sense to shop online and get them delivered.
“But it’s no longer good enough to have a great product. Ecommerce is all about convenience,” said Mr Eglon. “You also need to have phenomenal service and reputation. Grow too quickly and you can start to lose the quality. That’s something we spend a lot of time avoiding.
“Ultimately, the world is moving towards ecommerce and sustainability. These trends are converging. The virus just accelerated it all.
To this end, the company have come up with an initiative called The Final Forty Feet.
“Other companies can deliver to your driveway or kerbside, but the Final Forty Feet focuses on getting your firewood to your shed. And that means we need our own vans and drivers to keep our standards high.
There has not been any problem with the supply chain either. The timber comes from sustainable forests in Latvia.
“So far we haven’t had any problems with our supply chain. But now the season is underway, we’re doing everything we can to make sure it stays that way - speaking to suppliers to secure extra orders, and sourcing new products to strengthen our supply.
“Fundamentally, we’re here to sell sustainable firewood and provide unrivalled service. So that’s what we will continue to do. The real challenge is getting the balance right. It’s not just a case of buying extra stock. We need to think about the long-term investment in warehousing, our fleet of trucks, and most importantly, our team,” he said.
To see the wide range of products available from ecofuel, see www.ecofuel.ie