Food wholesalers: not just a supplier

The best firms are able to provide valuable advice and insight to customers

Young people eating in bar

THE definition of a ‘food wholesaler’ has evolved in recent years, and the best examples are able to provide advice and guidance to ensure their customers are stocking up on the right foods for their unit.

Wholesalers told SLTN their role is increasingly that of an adviser to their licensee customers.

“Moving boxes is one thing, but knowing what the customer wants in terms of both logistics and what is inside ‘the box’ in terms of quality, suitability and, of course, price, is where the real magic lies and is what sets certain wholesalers apart from others,” said Becky Hover of Brakes.

“A modern wholesaler should be less of a ‘supplier’ and more of a business partner, able to offer advice on a whole range of business issues; it’s why we have category teams who specialise in specific products, and buyers with responsibility for those categories who are experts in their field, able to advise on issues such as ranging, quality and pricing.”

‘Sector intelligence’ – knowledge of which types of food are proving popular in particular types of venue – is also an important part of the wholesaler service in 2018, said Hover.

This was reinforced by James Robinson at specialist Spanish food wholesaler Brindisa.

“Experienced and knowledgeable wholesalers can help add value to a pub’s offering – this might be by suggesting food and drink pairings or highlighting products that create new sales opportunities,” said Robinson.

Brindisa’s current top-selling products include several that are well-suited to snacking and sharing, said Robinson (see pages 36 to 39), such as serrano ham, olives and cheeses.

“We are definitely seeing an unprecedented demand for premium snacks with distinct and authentic seasonings,” said Robinson.

Convenience is another important consideration for operators.

“Licensees are often seeking convenient produce that doesn’t compromise on flavour or quality,” said Robinson.   

And with sustainability becoming a more high-profile issue across the food industry, there is now more pressure on wholesalers to ensure they are procuring their products from sustainable sources.

Hover of Brakes said this “is important to many of our customers”.

As with any major supplier, choosing the right wholesaler to work with on the food side can be a challenge.

While it can be tempting to deal with a number of different suppliers, however, a partnership with a single wholesaler can be rewarding, said Niall Deveney at Dunns Food & Drinks.

“It’s about the operator and wholesaler being able to develop a mutual understanding of how they can work together,” he said.

“This goes well beyond pricing and is instead built on relationships.   

“When these exist, there is a greater understanding of the requirements of the business, allowing greater results to come more quickly as a good supplier will then be able to use their knowledge and expertise to offer a tailor-made solution and business-building support.”

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Quite the achievement


THE team at Bidfood Scotland had cause for celebration when the wholesaler scooped the Best Delivered Operation (Foodservice) and Great Place to Work titles at the recent Scottish Wholesale Achievers Awards.


Fáilte Foods and Dunns Food & Drinks were runners up in the foodservice award and Fáilte Foods and United Wholesale (Scotland) were runners up in the Great Place to Work category. United Wholesale (Scotland) triumphed elsewhere, however, as it was named Champion of Champions, and also took the awards for Best Licensed Operation and Best Cash & Carry.