Being the best at something – and knowing that you are – is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
But for this to then be recognised in a room full of hundreds of people must really feel superb – so much so that at last month’s Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA)’s annual Wholesale Achievers awards night, wholesalers showed just how unwilling they are to give up their hard-won accolades.
Winners included Iain Hill, Bidvest 3663 and Forteith Foodservice, and after months of work to impress the SWA’s judges, it was clear in each case that success carried considerable meaning, not just for the companies, but for their staff, too.
But for three winners, after a year of upping their games and innovating their operations, the night provided a sense of déjà vu. The three best delivered operations – for foodservice, on-trade and retail – were all awarded to the same three wholesalers that had won the previous year.
“We’re very proud,” says Jim Cummiskey, managing director of independent wholesaler Fáilte Foods, which was named the Best Delivered Operation – Foodservice. Cummiskey says the company’s second win in consecutive years was hard fought.
“We really weren’t expecting it as there was great competition, but it shows we’ve got our finger on the pulse.”
So what did Jim and his team do to bag the award again?
“We’ve introduced our own production line for fruit and vegetables as part of a £1.2m investment. You can’t stand still.”
While Fáilte Foods was celebrating, Graeme Harvie, general sales manager of Gordon & MacPhail, took to the stage to collect the award for Best Delivered Operation – On-Trade.
“We’re absolutely delighted,” he says. “The competition was really tough but we’ve been striving this year to offer our customers consistently great service.”
It was evident that the third wholesaler to keep its delivered operation award had managed to balance bringing new ideas and innovations to its business while keeping the elements on which its reputation was built. CJ Lang & Son not only took the gong for Best Delivered Operation – Retail, but it had made improvements across its whole business to the extent that it also took home the coveted ‘Champion of Champions’ trophy.
On top of this, through its partnership with convenience store brand Spar, the company also picked up the Best Symbol Group award, completing a hat-trick for the company.
“It’s a great accolade and a fantastic achievement,” says Gerry Welsh, the firm’s marketing manager. “The company is absolutely delighted to be awarded ‘Champion of Champions’. It gives us great pride to be recognised by our peers as the best wholesale business in Scotland!”
How had it built on last year’s success to claim such a haul? “The constant focus on great customer service and bringing initiatives to life in all stores across the country plays a key part in our success,” Welsh says. “We’re always striving to improve our business and this can be seen within delivery schedules, new marketing innovations and field sales support.”
With these businesses all clearly enjoying the taste of success, it’s unlikely they will be easily knocked off their perches next year. But for the wholesalers of Scotland, the marker has been put down and the top tier recognised.
Which companies will be brave enough to challenge them in 2016?