Looking back at 2023
What a year it has been at NAAFI! From opening six high street cafes to launching our new-look NAAFI Tea, it has been a year to remember. 2023 also saw the transition to our new Head Office in Fareham, with over 130 new members of the team joining the business around the world, all working towards our mission to give back to Armed Forces communities.
March saw the unveiling of our first NAAFI Cafe in Catterick Garrison, opening our doors beyond the Forces for the first time in a long time. It’s been a pleasure meeting you all and reminiscing on your memories of NAAFI. To celebrate the opening, we invited some of our key contacts in the Catterick community for a first look and to share a glass of bubbles. Sergeant Major WO1 Ray Nyambira officially opened our new location as we were surrounded by a few inches of North Yorkshire snow (in March!) Since then, five more cafes have opened around the UK in Fareham, Winchester, Scarborough, Lancaster and Gibraltar.
The month of May saw the NAAFI Fund open for a fourth time receiving over 530 applications; a record year for us! We were delighted to fund 130 applications totalling over £900,000, and this year we’re branching out into some new locations including the Middle East and Kenya. We look forward to visiting as many projects as possible in 2024 as they launch brand new refurbished areas, gardens, welfare spaces and more.
In June, NAAFI partnered with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and opened retail stores on RFA Argus, RFA Lyme Bay and RFA Mounts Bay, providing a taste of home for personnel on board. On the last weekend of the month, members of the NAAFI Head Office team travelled to Falmouth for the Armed Forces Day national event. We spent the weekend chatting and reminiscing about fond memories of NAAFI and showcasing some of our naafi.shop products. It was great to see all generations getting stuck in with our giant deckchair competition, a big congratulations again to Curtis who won a brand new paddleboard set, generously donated by Cotswold Outdoor.
Showcased for the first time at the Royal International Air Tattoo in July, NAAFI launched sustainable pods in partnership with iForm, to provide portable accommodation, ablutions and catering for permanent and temporary Forces requirements across the globe. Lightweight, strong and extremely durable, each pod is made from 98% plastic using over 26,000 recycled bottles. The pods use super strong, one-piece panels on all walls and floors, with no joins for maximum strength. More recently, our coffee pod has been serving personnel in snowy Estonia, with a newly commissioned trailer shortly off to sunny Gibraltar!
Heading into Autumn, we welcomed three pioneering graduates to our brand new Graduate Scheme; Will, Jayden and Martyn have so far enjoyed four months getting stuck in with their department rotations including time with Commercial, HR, Finance and out on operation in Europe!
In October, NAAFI was invited to attend the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Awards evening to be presented with the Gold award. The Government-led scheme recognises the positive role that employers play in supporting Forces communities, and we take pride in recruiting those with links to the Forces at all of our locations around the world and in the UK.
Members of our Head Office team were honoured to attend the National Service of Remembrance at The Cenotaph in November, laying a wreath on behalf of the 552 NAAFI employees who valiantly lost their lives during the war. For the first time this year, the NAAFI Wagon was also present at the Horse Guards Parade, providing everyone with snacks and confectionary at the end of the march. We’d like to thank the Royal British Legion again for our invitations.
Fast forward to December and our new-look NAAFI Tea has now arrived on naafi.shop, soon to be distributed to our locations around the world. Now available in beautiful, collectable tins, full to the brim with 80 tagged NAAFI tea bags. The striking new ribbon design celebrates everything we do at NAAFI, representing the three colours of the Tri-Service; Navy, Blue and Red, blending together and working as one. Reliably sourced from India and Africa for a crisp, fresh and malty flavour; you won’t find a tea like it anywhere else!
Heading into 2024 we have many plans already in motion to further improve our support for UK personnel, including some of our newest locations such as Estonia, Poland, Diego Garcia and Singapore. With a wide range of temporary and permanent facilities providing retail, leisure, dining, soft FM and more, we look forward to improving our offer and listening to feedback from those at our locations.