Clean bill of health

P G Professional’s products do not have as high a profile as many of the company’s other brands but its contribution to the overall operation cannot be overlooked. Mat Baker, country director UK Ireland, P G Professional, says the unit has foodservice sales in excess of pound;100m and adds: “It’s a big growth engine for the overall business in terms that it is growing significantly faster than the retail business.”

The unit headed by Baker comprises 55 staff and is one of seven business units based at P G’s UK headquarters at Weybridge in Surrey. Being part of the HQ set-up has a number of advantages, according to Baker. One is that his unit shares the same core infrastructure for all the back office systems such as IT, payroll and HR.

“It also means we are part of the bigger team in terms of the talent pool,” he says. “One of the biggest challenges facing companies in foodservice is attracting good talent because people’s preconceptions of careers and opportunities tend to be very retail focused. So if you want to develop a good foodservice or away from home team you need to make sure that the thousands of people who work for P G understand there are challenging and meaningful opportunities working with companies like 3663 and Brakes, as well as working with Tesco and Sainsbury’s.”

The core of the unit’s business is in professional laundry, kitchen cleaning and housekeeping systems and chemicals, targeted primarily at the independent care sector, independent hotels, restaurants and pubs. Baker says: “Our products are delineated by a blue stripe and that range is sold through the cash and carry sector and into the delivered wholesale market, both to the foodservice market like 3663 and Brakes, but also into the more specialist non-food market like Bunzl and King.”

Baker’s team has responsibility across the whole of P G for selling to the delivered wholesale sector and to some large end users such as the NHS, so in addition to its own products it also has responsibility for selling the retail brands in the away from home market. This means selling brands like Pringles into companies such as 3663, but also supplying Pampers nappies to the NHS.

Baker says: “We have a team of people who are very knowledgeable about the NHS as a market and their job is to act as a broker into all the P G opportunities.”

When it comes to selling P G products into the cash and carry sector, this is carried out by a stand-alone unit within P G, but several members of Baker’s sales team will also belong to this unit.

He explains: “The way P G focuses its sales organisation is all about being channel focused. The team who work in cash and carry are responsible for understanding and winning with Booker, Bestway, Makro and the other major operators.

“They will work on a corporate basis and sell a broad range of P G products and they will look to teams at head office to provide the support and expertise, but they are the experts in winning with the customer.”

While P G’s sales teams focus on their channels, says Baker, when it comes to the marketing and product development of the brands it concentrates on the consumer. He explains: “That consumer focus in my area of the business is all about developing bespoke laundry and kitchen cleaning and housekeeping solutions for professional users.”

Baker says his unit is renewing its focus in this area, and adds: “What we hope that will deliver is a stream of NPD, services and marketing campaigns that are more tailored and likely to be successful with our partners and our end users.”

The first product of this new focus is a range of four laundry detergents, called Expert Formula. They come in Daz, Bold and two Aerial varieties, but have been specially formulated for the needs of care homes, restaurants and hotels. Baker says they are not just larger pack size of P G’s retail products but are chemically different to address the target consumers’ cleaning needs.

For instance, in the Aerial variety targeted for hotels and restaurants the stain removal in wine and tomato, things you get in a foodservice environment, has been increased, but grass stains, which is one of the biggest things in retail, is not a factor.

It is unusual for products within the professional sector to carry brands that are well recognised in retail. Baker says his initial instinct was not to use them, but this changed after a study of consumers.

He says: “The brands are so strong in the psyche of the operators that they add a lot of value. What is important is to explain what has been done to make it special to their needs. Most of our competition is not in brands but consumer research shows it is a really powerful advantage.”

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