Wholesalers can build long-term relationships with caterers through technology

Steve Jeavons

It has been three years since it became law for caterers to provide customers with food allergen and intolerance information. As well as challenges, this has provided huge opportunities for wholesalers. However, few have taken advantage of these.

Our members are winning and retaining customers. In addition to the core offering required, including product quality, customer service and price, they have a trick up their sleeves: technology.

Wholesalers who embrace technology can streamline their data flows and supply their customers with a solution to one of their biggest hurdles. Caterers, particularly small businesses, have to ensure they comply with the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (FIC 1169/2011). This can involve chasing suppliers and manufacturers for product data, as well as deciphering the information and ensuring it is accurately disseminated to their customers.

However, a digital solution means all the data they need is available immediately and at their fingertips.

Many of our members at Fairway Foodservice use Erudus, a cloud-based system that contains data about more than 34,000 products, enabling caterers to instantly access vital allergen and intolerance information. As the information is uploaded and maintained directly by the manufacturers, the end-user can rest assured that it is accurate and legally warranted.

No longer behind the times

As a group, wholesalers have a reputation for not being tech savvy. But we are seeing shifts in this perception, with digital solutions now becoming vital components of the modern-day wholesaling business.

For example, caterers value the ability to place orders as soon as stock is low. With chefs unlikely to have computers or laptops in their kitchens, the best solution is a mobile phone app linked to their preferred wholesaler. is means they can place orders 24/7 and whole- salers can process these quickly. The apps can also make buying quicker for caterers, as they can quickly match their order histories with their current requirements.

Tyneside Foodservice, a wholesaler based in the north-east of England, has launched such an app, and it has already gone down extremely well with foodservice companies in the region.

Wholesalers are also using apps to efficiently manage stock levels in the warehouse. The time-saving element of embracing digital is an obvious benefit, but there is also a cost-saving side to the changes as well.

Consumer interest in gluten-free products, for example, extends beyond allergens and intolerances. People are choosing certain lifestyles and opting to avoid items such as gluten or dairy. They therefore expect a variety of options on the menu.

For caterers, repeat business and recommendations are often the lifeblood of any successful restaurant or takeaway. Being able to instantly answer any questions about gluten-free products and illustrating an appetising range on the menu helps to build strong relationships. Wholesalers will likely benefit from their own long-term relationships with caterers if they work closely with them on this journey.

Whatever the consumer’s reason for seeking certain meals, the caterer by law has to provide such allergen and intolerance information.

My advice to wholesalers is to make signing up to a service such as Erudus their number-one tech priority. This will make it simpler and smoother for them to help their customers comply with the legislation. Additionally, if the caterer uses a wholesaler who is an Erudus subscriber, the service to the caterer should be free.

Steve Jeavons is purchasing director at buying group Fairway Foodservice

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