Tom Gittins is the managing director of Confex
BWI: What is your unique selling point?
TG: Confex is the best value buying group. We work with more than 200 suppliers across all product categories and do not operate joining or membership fees, with head office costs funded by a very competitive levy on rebates. We are governed by a member-led board with all profits shared according to member participation. Become a member of Confex and you will be paid a dividend each year.
What has been your most significant achievement over the past year?
Confex continues to grow ahead of our competitors. We are the only group to truly offer terms across all product categories and are very proud of our award-winning Core foodservice own brand, which launched in May 2021 with a range of 300 SKUs across ambient, chilled, frozen and non-food. Projected sales are £5m this year, which is amazing considering we launched during a pandemic. We see further range extensions creating a £30m brand within five years.
Our second big development over the past year is through data. With the help of TWC, we are harnessing our group data, which is now delivering targeted sales growth through insight. Data is now at the heart of all Confex planning and decision-making, while our members are using data in order to drive efficiencies within their individual businesses.
How have you expanded and attracted new members over the past 12 months?
Confex has grown by 67% in the past 12 months, attracting eight new members, which has helped to grow the group turnover to £2.93bn. We are growing faster than our competitors, which has been driven by our members embracing technology and diversifying in line with the market. The success of our Core own brand has helped to create a point of difference for the Confex wholesaler and is now an award-winning brand rivalling its biggest foodservice competition.
What are your plans to help members over the next 12 months?
We are also looking forward to our first conference abroad for three years when we take our members and suppliers to Dubrovnik in October. Along with our annual trade show in March, we also have a Foodservice Fair pencilled in at Stratford Racecourse in June 2023.
Confex events give an opportunity for members to network with both suppliers and members, while taking advantage of member-only offers and promotions, which help to drive sales.
Read more: Confex launches digital solution through strategic partnership
What are the biggest challenges for your members over the next 12 months?
There is no doubt that wholesale will continue to grow, but the interesting question is how it will look in the future.
We have seen the big grocers getting involved in our channel, which is a big positive in that they see the benefits of this sector, but we must ensure local wholesalers remain competitive and relevant going forward.
Wholesalers have shown amazing resilience during the turbulent trading conditions over the past five years, and I am sure with the right help and support they will continue to be the champions of the ‘last mile’ solution for the UK food and drink supply chain.