Nick Redford talks to Better Wholesaling about the work of Caterforce.
How has Caterforce worked with members to grow sales in the past 12 months?
We aim to act as a ‘commercial compass’ for our eight regional delivered foodservice members. We don’t want to support them with generic solutions or just act as an expensive administrative centre. We aim to work as a strategic link between wholesaler and supplier to deliver real value to our members and help our suppliers’ growth plans.
What have been the company’s main achievements in the past 12 months?
We launched our own-brand ‘Chefs’ Selections’ at the end of 2013, which has been a phenomenal success. It was initially brought to market for ambient products but then we expanded it to cover all temperatures. The brand is now worth more than £22m at sales value and we believe we are still very much at the start of the growth curve.
How are you investing in the brand to make sure it continues to grow?
Our high volume through a low number of drop points makes our pricing very competitive. Our members enjoy the benefit of receiving net pricing to give them competitiveness.
Our decision not to load our own-brand with huge central rebates has clearly paid dividends in the sales figures. As examples, pasta, juice, beans and many other items are now more than double the size they were when we first started Chefs’ Selections.
Who is the latest addition to the group?
In April, Kent Frozen Foods became our eighth member, which gives us a combined annual turnover of almost £400m. Our primary business is serving small- to medium-sized profit sector businesses, with a growing presence in the cost sector.
300 own-label lines
What major challenges have you overcome in the past 12 months?
Responding to a fast-paced and highly competitive marketplace is one of the biggest ongoing challenges we face. Our members are fully engaged in the procurement process right from the start. For example, our weekly telephone conferences give all the buyers the chance to discuss the price movements of commodities, such as cheese, bacon, eggs and milk, giving each wholesaler that ‘compass’ when agreeing pricing with local suppliers.
How do you plan to develop your service to wholesalers in the next six months?
Although the economic recovery is continuing, the reality is that customer purchasing habits have changed forever. The need for innovation and differentiation will remain high on customer’s agendas and it is important that wholesalers don’t become complacent.
Legislation involving nutritional information requirements will also soon become a reality and wholesalers must be prepared to support their customers’ needs.
What trends will drive the market in the next six months?
The greater demands from the end user on quality and extent of ranges available are set to drive the market forward. Many Caterforce wholesaler members are developing ingredient-based fine dining and gastro ranges to fit with the more aspirational style of food preparation – there is no doubt that this is an expectation from the consumer.
What advice do you have for wholesalers looking to grow sales?
A willingness to embrace change and explore all routes to market is imperative in order to progress. It is key to ensure that technology is fully maximised to improve efficiencies.
Going forward, online ordering will no longer be a handy optional extra but an expectation. The retail market has been streets ahead for a number of years – it’s time for foodservice to catch up!