JJ Food Service welcomed the MP for Birmingham Ladyhood, Shabana Mahmood, to its Aston branch to support her mission to promote and develop Birmingham’s future economy.
Group general manager Terry Larkin and deputy branch manager Ruhel Ahmed gave Mahmood a tour of the 30,000 sq ft Aston site, which employs 56 staff and supports 3,000 caterers in the Birmingham area.
Mahmood has a background in wholesale, with one of her first jobs involving visiting cash & carries with her father, who owned a convenience store. “I am a great fan of wholesale,” she said.
The MP has launched an investigation into businesses into Birmingham to see what more can be done to support jobs and skills in the city, ahead of the election of Birmingham’s first directly-elected Mayor next year. “Food has a great place in the story of Birmingham,” she said, adding that there was great scope to develop opportunities around food exports in the city.
Group general manager Terry Larkin said JJ Food Service was very proud of its ability to look at future trends and adapting the business accordingly. “Our focus is on our independent customers, helping them to develop their business, particularly with technology and the move to online ordering,” he noted.
Larkin highlighted the work JJ has done to promote healthier eating options in London, and said the wholesaler would be keen to work with Mahmood to extend its Healthier Eating initiative to Birmingham. This would see JJ offering discounted rates on fresh fruit, vegetables, lower-calorie cooking oils, soft drinks and other related products. Mahmood said she would work to promote the initiative with Birmingham’s new mayor next year.
Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) chief executive James Bielby, who helped host the visit, said JJ’s Aston branch played an important role in supporting its 3,000 catering customers. “Wholesalers like JJ Food Service are a vital part of the UK economy, both locally and nationally, but often under-recognised as such,” he added.
JJ used the meeting to raise key challenges facing the business including a shortage of HGV drivers and business identity fraud. Larkin said business identity fraud was a huge issue, which has cost the business tens of thousands of pounds. “Our reputation as a business potentially suffers as a result,” he noted.
The National Living Wage and the soft drinks levy were also highlighted as key issues, with a potential increase in sales on the fraudulent market of particular concern.
The information shared by JJ Food Service and FWD will be used in Mahmood’s report on Birmingham’s future economy, as well as informing her work in Parliament.