Booker motors in the on-trade

Drinks and foodservice divisions help wholesaler post strong results

WHOLESALER Booker says it’s on track to become a “significant player” in supplying the UK’s pubs, restaurants and hotels with food and drink

Posting strong financial results for the year to the end of March, amid what were said to be challenging trading conditions, chief executive Charles Wilson said Classic, its on-trade drinks wholesale business, and Ritter Courivaud, its speciality food supplier, have made a “real contribution” to the group.
The two businesses were acquired by Booker last October.
Total sales generated by the wholesaler, which has more than 170 sites across the UK, were up 6.2%, from £3.4 billion to £3.6bn, in the 52 weeks to March 25. Acquired businesses are said to have contributed £30 million of the £200m extra sales. Like-for-like sales rose 5.1% in the 12-month period.
Booker is said to have attracted 13,000 new catering customers in the 12-month period, as sales rose 6.3% to £1.1bn.
Sales of its own-label catering brand, Chef’s Larder, were up 5% to £156 million, while sales of fresh fruit and veg rose 53%.
The wholesaler said it has taken some of the Ritter range into Booker and is in the process of extending Ritter’s national coverage using Booker cash and carry business centre space.
A similar strategy has been applied to on-trade wholesaler Classic, which traditionally supplied pubs and restaurants in the north west of England.
Wilson said the integration of the two businesses has put Booker in a strong position going forward. “We’ve strengthened our catering offer with Ritter, which is great to have in the company,” he said. “They have a fantastic understanding of how chefs think and we’re very proud to have them as part of the business. Classic is also a great business, which is fitting in very nicely. It has helped improve our wine offer and allows us to offer a better service for the on-trade. We believe that in the next three years Classic/Booker can become a new force in the UK on-trade sector, offering a low risk, low cost, high service, local solution. With the inclusion of Ritter-Courivaud we can become a major force in foodservice and with Classic we can become a significant player in on-trade.”
Looking ahead, Wilson said last month’s warm weather helped get its current financial year off to a “good start”. “Booker made good progress in 2010/11 and our plan to ‘focus, drive and broaden’ the business is on track,” he said.
“Ritter and Classic have made a real contribution to the group and we are pleased with the performance of Booker India. The UK economy looks challenging, but we are committed to helping our 459,000 customers prosper in the year ahead.”