Interview: Bobby’s Foods

The opening of the Northern Ireland depot

Paul Hill speaks to Bobby’s Foods’ regional business development manager, Peter Aikman, and national sales manager, Shaun Spendlow, about the opening of the company’s Northern Ireland depot on the outskirts of Belfast

PH: Tell us the story about the opening of Bobby’s Northern Ireland depot

PA: We opened our first depot in Northern Ireland – 12th overall – to better serve our 500 retailers in this region. Over the past four years, our teams have made remarkable progress in supplying retailers across the country.

We’ve been helped by Maxwell Freight, which provides invaluable guidance and support throughout our journey.

Starting from a modest corner of its warehouse in 2019, Bobby’s gradually expanded its footprint, eventually culminating in the realisation of a newly built warehouse and offices at Crumlin.

National sales manager Shaun Spendlow and regional business development manager Peter Aikman

How does Bobby’s structure work?

We supply our range consisting of around 200 products made up of sweets, snacks, nuts, popcorn, cakes and freezer items direct to retailers, and we deliver these from our 105 vans on the road to more than 22,000 local stores nationwide. Bobby’s is part of a group that includes Hancocks and World of Sweets.

What made you set up a permanent base here?

There has always been a demand and huge potential in this market, but we needed a physical base to fully realise this, and have seen huge growth in the past three years as a result.

Building a depot and having a sales team here shows retailers we are committed to the market and are in it for the long haul. It also shows we’re confident with the Northern Ireland market.

How has this depot performed financially?

Our sales have grown every year since starting here, and we achieved a 47% increase in 2023. As for many businesses, it was a difficult time during Covid-19, and this affected some of our plans, but we supported local retailers as best we could, and we are now looking to build on recent success. We’ll introduce a fifth van in Northern Ireland in 2024 to sustain the growth and serve more customers.

How are you recruiting retailers across the country?

Our primary focus revolves around independent retailers and symbol groups, given Bobby’s reputation in the convenience market. However, we maintain flexibility in our target audience, extending our reach to any business equipped with a point-of-sale system.

While most of our customers consist of convenience stores, we also cater to pubs, bars, farm shops, and cafés. Our exceptional service drives customer acquisition, largely through word-of-mouth referrals and our proactive field sales efforts.

Sales representatives engage with customers every two weeks, with more frequent visits in busier cities like Derry and Belfast.

How does the Northern Irish market differ to the rest of the UK?

It is a lot different here, with fewer independent retailers and not the same strength of the bigger supermarkets you see in the rest of the UK. There is a mid-ground of small supermarkets managed by a symbol group such as Eurospar or Nisa. These are much bigger than convenience stores we typically serve, and they give us great scope to display our products and attract local consumers.

Is there scope to move into the Republic of Ireland?

At the moment, we are focusing our efforts here and moving goods for sale in Northern Ireland only. We are keen to understand the complexities around operating within the EU and working with some price-marked products in sterling, and we see a great opportunity in moving into the Republic of Ireland. Hopefully, that answer will become a ‘yes’ in future years.

How do you source your products?

We have a product-sourcing team with extensive industry experience and an extensive network of contacts. We work closely with manufacturers to develop products tailored to the convenience market’s needs and work alongside handpicked brand partners.

We are committed to providing revenue-generating products and exceptional service to our customers. We pride ourselves on knowing the products we sell are exclusive and offer retailers products they can’t get from local cash and carries, giving them points of difference from multiples.


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Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. He can be found on Twitter at @BW_PaulHill, or contacted via and 07960935659.


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