Today’s develops foodservice

The Today’s group has built up a big diverse collection of wholesalers within its membership so perhaps it should not come as a surprise that it has a significant presence in foodservice. Chris Beckingham, foodservice trading controller, says there are three main types of business contributing to a pound;500m total turnover in foodservice. The first is the Today’s Foodservice Trading Group (TFTG), which comprises 27 members with a total turnover of around pound;200m. A similar total turnover is attributable to the Country Range Group (CRG), and Beckingham estimates that about pound;100m of foodservice business goes through the rest of Today’s delivered and cash and carry members. While it might seem odd to have two foodservice buying groups within Today’s, Beckingham explains that the two have grown differently with CRG members each having defined exclusive territories while TFTG has no exclusivity, and in fact in two cases, Chesterfield and Great Yarmouth, members have depots within close proximity.

Beckingham says that if a wholesaler is a serious foodservice operator, and is willing to comply with the disciplines of the TFTG, that is all that is needed to join. Within the group there are businesses with turnovers ranging from pound;1m up to about pound;20m with an average of around pound;7-8m. Beckingham says: “Ninety per cent of the membership are exclusively foodservice operators such as HN Nuttall, Holdsworth and MJ Baker. There are four cash and carry members, but in each case they have developed a significant delivered foodservice business.”

TFTG members also have a diverse range of businesses varying from operators on the coast, where turnover is heavily skewed towards the holiday season, to companies around London which are affected to a lesser degree by the peaks and troughs of tourism, through to other operators with much steadier year-round business. Beckingham comments: “The majority of members tend to avoid local authority business and concentrate on higher margin free trade. Customers can be more promiscuous, but good operators can develop loyalty from their customers.”

Diverse range of members

TFTG carries out a range of work on behalf of it members, such as negotiating with suppliers about ranging and promotions. Beckingham says: “With such a diverse range of members in which every business is different, there are generally around 150 controlled lines out of an average total of about 2,000, with many of the rest being unique to each company.”

The group has also helped to develop the frozen offering from its members. Beckingham explains: “We identified a need for members to supply frozen food and for those which did not already do so we arranged a consolidation service which offers about 200 common lines such as burgers, sausages and chips.” The minimum drop is a single pallet and Beckingham says the service can be very economical for smaller members requiring a minimal amount of space for storage and a minimal financial outlay. He also points out that small deliveries can be made using a cool box, avoiding the need for costly temperature controlled vehicles.

Today’s also has its Kitchen King own label range which currently comprises about 300 products and, says Beckingham, is growing all the time. All the products are benchmarked against mainstream brands for taste but are substantially cheaper, he adds. Today’s also produces a range of recipe leaflets for chefs, using Kitchen King lines and although it is not mandatory for TFTG members to stock the range, he says it is proving very popular.

Beckingham says he believes there is a very positive outlook for Today’s fooodservice business. “Our foodservice turnover was up 7% last year, well above the industry average, and that was actually our lowest rate of growth in the last two or three years. I’m confident our growth will continue to out-perform the market, and that the market will continue to show healthy growth.

“There is some consolidation with the multiples buying up smaller companies, and their business tends to go to the largest operators, but there are more and more caterers coming into the business.”

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