Country Range Group is faring much better in the recession than its biggest competitors, according to managing director Colin Birchill. He told delegates at its annual conference that while growth had slowed, own brand was still up by 3% January to June and branded was up 7% for the same period. He added: “Our larger brethren are suffering greatly. Caterers are more inclined to listen to our story in these difficult times. New account growth across the group is substantial – much of it at present however going to make up for customer cut backs. But we do anticipate a return to substantial growth in 2010.”
The Country Range Group has also been investing in its business with recent IT development. The Business Intelligence System will transmit members’ sales and purchase information to the centre on a daily basis. Birchall said: “The benefits are convergence of ranges, pinpointing new opportunities, more focused promotional and marketing solutions and automated up-to-date statistics. This IT solution will enable us to have accurate group statistics at the touch of a button, not only what we are buying but what we are selling at any point in time.”
Another investment this year was the development kitchen at the group’s central office in Simonstone, Lancashire. This provides suppliers with the opportunity to demonstrate their product portfolios.
“Our own brand is the best in the Features > Business,” Birchall commented. “No one challenges that statement because no one can match the quality of these products. Our aggressive new product development programme has resulted in over 30 products recently launched, another 10 imminent and over 50 under consideration.”
Country Range has also been expanding its own brand into frozen foods with 14 new product launches this year and more to follow. “In 2010 two further members will become frozen food stockists, while this year Essex Flour Grain is introducing Country Range branded frozen food into London.”
Birchall was keen to add that “brands represent 70% of the Features > Business,” and addressing suppliers he said: “We are committed to working with you, and actively supporting the growth of branded products that can add value to our offer to the caterer.”
The group’s magazine Stir it Up is making the move from eight issues a year to ten in 2010 and in line with this there will be ten promotion periods as opposed to eight. Birchall added: “This year and next must be the best times to promote to drive sales. People are looking for a deal. I think this fact is increasingly being appreciated by suppliers and members.”
=== Country Range Group Update ===
l Cimandis has replaced its entire fleet with 18 temperature-controlled vehicles. Consolidated deliveries of frozen, chilled, ambient and non food can now be delivered at the same time. It is also the sole supplier to the Coffee Republic franchise in Jersey.
l Turner Price has new vehicles, more sales staff in both office and field and an IT investment.
l Trevors Foodservice won the first prize in the Pritchitt’s sponsored Regional Telesales Achievers Awards. It has also implemented and rolled out the BCP Accord system.
l Chaffins has completed its new branding throughout the whole company. It has also increased its nursing home business from six to 35 in 2009.
l Coastline Products started its contract with Young’s supplying over 120 pubs. It also had a department restructure, incorporating telesales, customer service and field sales. Last month it started its Fullers contract, supplying over 150 pubs.
l Ilfracombe Foodservice donated food and drink for the walkers and assistants of the 2009 Startrek event organised by the Ilfracombe Rotary Club and the event raised pound;44,000.
l Caterite Foodservice celebrated 40 years of trading this year and helped raise pound;3,000 for Eden House Children’s Hospice in Carlisle.
l Birchall Catering Supplies has acquired another acre of land adjoining its main Burnley site. It has also unveiled its first articulated lorry and two of its employees are being sponsored to do part-time courses in HR and accountancy.
l Essex Foodservice Group has plans under way for the Olympic Village coming in 2012.
l Aghadowey Food Services held the Aghadowey trade show which attracted more than 1,100 caterers.