Wimbledon Aces Supply Chain Challenges

June 20, 2012 by Richard Howells 0

As the oldest organized tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon  has become famous for its traditions. Every player must wear white, it always rains, a “Brit” usually has a spectacular failure in the semi-final and of course, the much loved (and often overpriced) strawberries and cream are gorged upon. But this year, more than ever, Wimbledon organizers are facing an astounding “supply and demand” challenge.

During the Wimbledon fortnight, it is estimated that spectators will consume 61,730 pound (28,000 kilos ) of English strawberries and 7,000 liters of cream. And these aren’t just any old wild or imported strawberries. The official Wimbledon strawberry is the Elsanta variety, which are Grade 1 English strawberries from specially registered farms in Kent. They are grown to be at peak freshness for Wimbledon, picked fresh the day before being served, transported to Wimbledon by 5:30 a.m. every morning, and are individually inspected before being hulled (removing the green stem from the top of the berry). Strawberries are then served by the punnet (a baskets used for selling fruits and berries) of no less than 10 strawberries topped with (of course) double cream.

This is a supply chain over 130 years in the making that runs to perfection.

Unfortunately, Britain had the wettest April on record this year. And with more rain forecast, the lack of sun is extremely bad news for fruit and vegetable farmers, and particularly the Wimbledon strawberry growers. At the pre-Wimbledon tournament at Queen’s Club, the rain soaked attendees were forced to eat (dare I say it) Dutch pineberries (a white strawberry).

And strawberries are not the only product that can’t afford a double fault in its supply chain and reach Wimbledon at the top if its game. In 2011 a staggering 52,200 tennis balls were served up. And talking of serving, the following were consumed by the 500,000 attendees:

  • 300,000 cups of tea and coffee
  • 250,000 bottles of water
  • 190,000 sandwiches
  • 150,000 bath buns, scones, pasties and doughnuts
  • 150,000 glasses of Pimm’s
  • 35,000 ice creams
  • 100,000 pints of draft beer and lager
  • 60,000 sausages
  • 30,000 portions of fish and chips
  • 30,000 liters of milk
  • 23,000 bananas
  • 22,000 slices of pizza
  • 20,000 portions of frozen yogurt
  • 17,000 bottles of champagne
  • 26,455 pounds of poached salmon and smoked salmon

So here are my Wimbledon predictions….

It will rain, but as we say in Britain, “if you don’t like the weather, wait 30 minutes.”

Andy Murray will make it past the semi-finals (I am the eternal optimist as I am also a Red Sox fan and they eventually won a World Series – or 2).

The strawberry supply chain will pull through, but the supply and demand dynamics will send the prices above £2.50 a punnet.

Enjoy the Championships.

Follow me on Twitter @howellsrichard.

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