Paul Hill chats to the buying director of Hull-based Country Range Group member Turner Price
Tell us about the history of the business and who it supplies We are a family-owned de- livered food wholesaler based in Hull, and have been trading since 1992. We pride ourselves on our customer service, and now have more than 2,500 customers trad- ing on a weekly basis, through- out Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, County Durham and Northumberland.
We offer a comprehensive foodservice range of more than 8,500 products across all categories, and our foodservice sales are evenly split between the cost sector (education and care) and profit sector (takeaways, cafés, restaurants and so on).
On top of this, we are unique in that we also have a complementary offshore ship supplies and global export divisions. For the latter, we are proud to have be- come one of the leaders in the ex- port of British goods all over the world, including the Caribbean, Antarctic, USA, Canada, South America, South Africa, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Far East, Middle East and mainland Europe. Not many British food export wholesalers supply all seven continents of the world.
What work has the company done to improve its sustainability credentials? We are proud to be working with sustainability consultancy Climate Partner, which helps us understand our environmental impact across the business and track our progress as we implement positive changes. In recent years, we have continued to invest in a cleaner fleet of heavy goods vehicles to limit the impact on the environment and have changed our company car policy so that all new cars are either hybrid or electric.
We have also installed solar panels across our site in Hull and continue to drive energy efficiencies, particularly in our temperature-controlled product areas.
Across our operations, we have implemented key processors to ensure we manage food, oil, plastic and general waste, and continue to increase our recycling strategy to prevent food going in to landfill.
We also recently recruited a product data and sustainability manager. Working in both areas, that role ensures we are in a better position to not only support customers, but make sure, as a business, we’ve got the processes in place to be sustainable.
What have been the major recent developments at the company? We recently agreed partnerships with both the HCA and LACA, and our annual trade show will now be taking place twice next year, with an additional show announced in Sheffield. Our plans for 2024 are centred around being proactive in the different sectors we support and the wide area we deliver to. We are confident that being partners of the HCA and LACA will increase our exposure and create new opportunities to continue our long success in the education and care home sectors.
Do you have any expansion plans for the years ahead? We have gradually expanded and bought warehouses on our current site in Hull, which has increased our capacity. Our plan is to continue to invest in the infrastructure of the business and our people so we are well placed to achieve the growth projections for the coming years.
Freezer space continues to be a premium, however, and our current facility, which was commissioned around six years ago and gave us almost three times the freezer space that we had previously, is now almost at capacity again, so we are having plans drawn up to extend this. We hope to have the build completed and it be fully operational within the next 12 months.
How is the business performing financially? We are on track to achieve a total company turnover of £100m for our fiscal year to March 2024, which represents an annual growth rate in excess of 10%.
What are the biggest challenges the industry is facing? The cost-of-living crisis continues to affect everyone, and we are no different, so the challenges surrounding range, pricing and product availability while delivering the best service for our customers is at the centre of everything we do as a business.
Although we are seeing small signs of deflation coming back into the market, many core commodities are still at historic highs, and with that comes challenges for lots of our customers.
Tell us about your unique digital proposition A few years ago, we launched what was the very first UK foodservice marketplace, which gave caterers instant access to thousands more items from our supply partners. Although we don’t physically hold marketplace stock, customers can simply add products to their online basket and place orders in the usual
way. These products will then be bought-to-order and delivered to our end user, usually within days.
The feedback to this new online service has been fantas- tic, with more than half of our customer base regularly ordering from the marketplace range. This has greatly expanded our product catalogue, especially in categories such as packaging, cheese, meats, snacking, breads and desserts, and our plans are to continue working with our strong portfolio of brands to increase the choice across even more categories.
What gives your business its USP? We are extremely proud of our fresh offering, all of which is controlled in-house by our experienced on-site team. We employ 10 trained butchers along with a dedicated food-preparation team.
We offer a quality range of British meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, and prepared vegetables to our customers, with everything being produced on a daily cycle or made to order. As we have state- of-the-art facilities on site, customers can order prepped produce and fresh meat with their usual order for next-day delivery. Some of our most popular products include our 95VL British mince, sausages made to our bespoke recipe, and prepped quarter cuts made using potatoes sourced locally.
Also, in September, we launched a range of allergy-free marinated meats, which has proved a huge success in education and hospitality.