The UK has an ageing population, which presents opportunities for wholesalers, says Elit Rowland
The number of people aged 85 and over has increased by 30% since 2005. With this expected to increase to 91% by 2025, the care home market is a potentially lucrative one for wholesalers.
[pull_quote_right]There will be more nursing homes in the future – it’s an important part of our business [/pull_quote_right]
Managing director of Musgrave Wholesale Noel Keeley said: “There will definitely be more nursing homes in the future – it’s an important part of our business and growing.”
Musgrave has just introduced a nursing home range that includes gluten-free options and recommendations for people with specific conditions. “Our aim is to help customers to consolidate their purchases to one supplier,” he added.
Five ways to win with care homes
- Nutritional tools: 3663, William Yule and others offer tools to nutritionally balance meals and work out costs and profits.
- Daily deliveries OF fresh: Many care homes top up on fresh fruit and vegetables everyday. Is your business geared up for daily fresh deliveries?
- Mighty meat: The quality of meat is important. If you have a butchery department, you can help your customers to consolidate their shopping into one place.
- Price is still key: Care homes have tight budgets so competitive pricing is crucial.
- Market yourself: Birch Grove didn’t even know that 3663 offered fresh – make sure your customers know your full proposition.
Patricia Radford, head chef at Maidstone Care Centre, receives a weekly delivery from 3663, but also gets daily deliveries from fresh fruit and vegetable supplier PK Produce and fresh seafood wholesaler M&J Seafood.
“All our meals are made from scratch so we use fresh where possible,” said Radford. She explains that the business likes to support local fresh produce suppliers, but that they also use frozen vegetables because fresh can be “expensive” and “inconsistent” in terms of portion sizes, which is a particular concern when you’re dealing with care homes.
Cost-sector specialist William Yule and Son, a Landmark member, says that 90% of its business is with the education and care sector. MD Mike Patterson says that portion control is time-consuming but very necessary.
“We analyse people’s menus and get them nutritionally balanced. There’s a lot of manual work involved – it can take us 24 hours to get one week’s worth of menus to the point where they are nutritionally balanced,” he says. “But it pays off with loyalty – some customers have been with us for 10 or 20 years.”
While having a strong fruit and veg offering and a butchery department are key, making customers aware of the proposition can be just as important.
Birch Grove Healthcare in Brighton is one of four Ashton Healthcare Group nursing homes, which uses 3663 because it offers the best price, according to administrator Kay Briggs.
“We are negotiating on behalf of all four businesses, so we can get good rates.” She places her weekly 3663 order by email but uses local suppliers for fresh fruit, vegetables and meat.
She admits: “We’ve never even thought about asking 3663 for fresh produce.”
[quote_box_right]The estimated increase in the number of people aged 85 between 2005 and 2025 is 91%[/quote_box_right]
Not everyone is getting the support they need. A spokesman from Trent House care home in Cowes, Isle of Wight, said it is keen to change its wholesaler: “We use Coastline Food Service but they never have a wide enough range or the right pack sizes.”
The business is in administration but when it finds a buyer, it will be looking for a new supplier. “We just want someone who can get the basics right,” he adds.