Paul Hill speaks to Oriental foods wholesaler Wing Yip on their sustainable path to growth
Despite selling authentic oriental ingredients for over half a century and becoming the leader in its field across the UK, Wing Yip is a wholesaler that has never rested on its laurels, with the recent expansion of its Croydon depot evidence of this.
Now with the second generation at the helm, the company has evolved beyond recognition since its formation as it adapts to the general public’s quest for more culinary creativity.
“When first setting up shop in the UK, our customer base was predominantly trade and we catered to local takeaway and restaurant owners who struggled to source authentic ingredients to create their menus and dishes,” explains director Ennevor Yap (pictured above, far right).
“However, in recent years, as more and more consumers have had an increased interest in oriental food and cooking, we’ve seen a significant increase in customers from the local areas of Birmingham, Manchester, Croydon and Cricklewood, as well as foodies from further afield looking for ingredients to cook with at home.”
First established in 1970 and opening its first store in the heart of Birmingham, an increase in demand led to the business identifying additional cities to work in.
This led to the opening of a Manchester store, followed by two London sites in Croydon and Cricklewood.
“Expanding our capacity meant we were able to also increase our range. As our brand grew, we gained more exposure and awareness, and attracted more home cooks as diversity in cooking and cuisines become more popular. Our portfolio spans many cuisines and ingredients sourced from around the globe,” he explains.
Always with one eye on expansion, Wing Yip’s recent focus has been an extension of the Croydon site located on Purley Way (breaking of ground pictured above).
The renovation has doubled the total square footage of the shop floor and warehouse space to 60,000 square feet. This has also allowed the wholesaler to add a brandnew cold warehouse, entrance lobby and additional parking.
“Customers are now able to shop in wider aisles, enhancing the overall shopping experience and positioning the store as a destination site to those travelling outside of local areas to stock up on their essentials,” explains Yap.
Furthermore, like all forward-thinking operations, an improvement on environmental footprint was at the forefront of the company’s priorities when planning the expansion, and this is evident in the large array of solar and PV panels enhancing the Croydon store’s use of green energy.
“We are dedicated to introducing an increased number of sustainable products to our shelves.”
“We also recently introduced a fully biodegradable and compostable range of bowls, cups, plates and cutlery in store and to our online platform. The Green Earth products have been developed as an alternative to disposable, single-use items and offer a convenient and robust alternative to plastic for retailers,” says Yap, adding that he hopes Wing Yip can help lead a step-change in its own supply chains and within the wider wholesale industry.
But like companies across the world, the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown had an effect on the business, with Wing Yip continuing to implement health and safety measures in line with government guidelines. This includes two-metredistanced queuing systems to enter the store to ensure fewer customers are in at one time.
Furthermore, all staff are temperature-checked when arriving to work each day, and are provided with face coverings.
Yap adds: “There are hand sanitisers displayed around the stores, at checkouts and within the staff zones. All baskets and trolleys are wiped down regularly and it is mandatory for all customers to wear a mask, unless they’re unable to do so due to a medical condition.”
With these measures in place, it has allowed the UK’s largest Oriental foods wholesaler to continue and remain profitable by, as Yap describes, “developing an unparalleled network of suppliers and manufacturers throughout the Far East. This enables us to continue sourcing high-quality, innovative products for our customers. It’s also imperative that we adapt to ensure we’re ahead of the curve.”
With a forward-thinking mindset such as this, Wing Yip is positioned to continue providing the best possible service to its customers and is adapting to ever-changing market demands. “We have fantastic teams across our stores, and their hard work is testament to where we are today,” he concludes.
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