Foodservice fellow: Andy Kemp, Bidvest 3663

Andy Kemp tells Elit Rowland how he wins multi-million pound contracts.

There aren’t many wholesalers that can compete with Andy Kemp’s eclectic repertoire of experience in foodservice: his first role was back in the 1980s when he took a job with Booker Fitch Foodservice as a business development manager for the south west and he quickly rose to national sales controller to develop the group’s free trade market.

But he hasn’t always worked on the wholesale-side. In 1992 he worked alongside Quest Quality, a consultancy working with the Booker Group which launched the ‘first for service’ programme. In 1995 he joined Universe Food Group as sales and marketing director and after two years became managing director, helping to launch brands like Ken Hom, Low Salt and Sharwood’s into the UK market. Kemp joined 3663 in 2000 as group sales director and he spends his days winning multi-million pound contracts for the business.

Proudest moment

Being made a fellow of the Institute of Hospitality for services to the industry

 “One of the proudest moments of my career was when we lost a £90m contract but replaced it within six months with numerous contracts worth £120m,” says Kemp.

Bidvest 3663 has businesses all over the world – including China, Singapore and Africa – and much of Bidvest 3663’s success has come from keeping an eye on what’s happening overseas. “I’ve just come back from America where we did some research into foods trends.   We want to help these fast-moving brands get into the UK market.”

But while global trends are important, Kemp says that it’s critical to keep a close eye on the consumer and to stay close to customers’ needs.

“I spend 85% of my time out with my customers – that’s what pays wages – being out on the road. With larger clients we will have reviews – what they are planning to do next and how we can support them. It’s the best way to get a better understanding of what they are looking for.”

Bidvest 3663 also has a regular procedure that keeps service levels high. Each driver has a debrief in the depot at the end of each day where comments from customers are fed back and “sweep up” meetings in the morning help to address them.

Winning new business can be a lengthy process for any wholesaler, but when you’re targeting multi-million pound cost-sector tenders with tough environmental and nutritional standards, it can take months to prepare – so Bidvest 3663 employs its own tendering team.

“We research the body that’s tendering at the time and look at the market they are trading in, the range that they buy and understand the costs. We speak to our buying team to make sure that we can supply the products that they need and then we put a tender out for those products.”

Fast bidvest 3663 facts

15,000 SKUs

£1.3bn turnover: Bidvest 3663

£1bn turnover: Bidvest Logistics

20,000 hits on free-trade website

18 depots

35% of national sales via online

4,557 staff: Bidvest 3663

1,432 staff: Bidvest Logistics

35% of national sales via online

But one of the difficulties with large government tenders says Kemp, is that they might not need added value services like nutritional tools and support with menu planning, which a lot of foodservice specialists offer. “Instead, they might want you to co-ordinate suppliers to all be from the same local area – we had one large customer that wanted us to supply 55% of our products from SMEs. They wanted to support small businesses so we need to be able to support that.”

Kemp’s advice to other wholesalers looking to grow business with cost-sector caterers is to get out there and look for it: “Understand what your customers are looking for and articulate really well what you can deliver. The European Journal shows everything that’s government funded.”

According to Kemp, one ofthe biggest growth sectors in the foodservice market will be in local authorities and schools as public spending continues to get slashed. The government has also announced the free school meals plan for the first three years of school which will present good opportunities for wholesalers: “It’s a huge cost to some parents to supply lunch for their kids and can’t necessarily afford to give them healthy options so it’s a great initiative.”

But it’s not just the big accounts that 3663 caters for – 50% of its business is also in the free trade market. “We have a very large sales and telesales market. They have a local salesman, linked to a local driver linked to a telesales person.”

As part of the company’s strategy Bidvest 3663 is placing future depots close to customers and plans to open as many local sites as possible.

“In wholesale, things can go two ways – you can either open numerous sites to be close to customers or trunk it around the country. We went for the first option so that our products can be sourced locally together with a major reduction in food miles.

But Kemp also believes that wholesalers have a role to better support their customers. “Our customers do not have time to go to conferences and seminars to find out what the up-and-coming trends are – it’s up to wholesalers to give them this because we want to help them to sell more.”

One of the things Bidvest 3663 does to help support nursing homes is to follow the Caroline Walker Trust Standards making sure clients are being fed to the right nutritional standards in areas such as dysphasia. “We work on things like colour co-ordinated plates as this helps people with Alzheimer’s to enjoy the eating experience more. We will do everything in our power to create knowledge for our customers through information and insight.”

One of the biggest legislative changes that will impact the channel is the new labeling law coming in to play in December (see page 04): “We are already working with our suppliers to re-label.”

Kemp says that the future of delivered foodservice will see the rise of online ordering and a massive rise in market transparency in terms of sourcing and provenance. His advice to other wholesalers looking to grow in the foodservice market is to be honest, supportive and professional: “Deliver high quality produce with good service and at a fair price. Add value with experience and knowledge.”

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