A major force for sales growth

Until recently Caterforce has been one of the best kept secrets in the foodservice sector, but managing director Nick Redford is now aiming to raise its profile to where an expanding pound;200m turnover business should be.

One of the main steps in this strategy was its inaugural supplier conference last month, attended by 150 delegates, where each of the six members of the buying group was able to provide insights into their businesses and their plans for expansion.

Redford detailed plans to grow group sales by pound;75m in three years (see News last month), but leading members also made presentations on why they believed the target was achieveable, and urged suppliers to get involved in the growth.

Hunt’s Foodservice managing director Richard Hunt said there has been pound;16m-worth of investment by members in the past year including the new Pilgrim depot, a new Philip Dennis Butchery, a new cold store for Lynas, and new offices for Pioneer.

Pilgrim Foodservice general manager Philip Parker gave details of other investment by members. Within the group, he said there were more than 120 field sales executives representing an annual investment of pound;6m, and this was up by 30% or pound;1.8m. Telesales had been increased by 25% to over 100, which is an additional pound;500,000 on an annual investment of pound;2m.

The group’s track record of growth was detailed by Andrew Lynas, managing director of Lynas Food Service. He said in the past five years Caterforce had grown sales by 55%, in excess of pound;65m, with every category growing. He added: “There were three key drivers: service, which is the backbone of all six members; the range, offering a one-stop solution; and a competitive offering.”

THE MEMBERS

Hunt’s Foodservice: covers the south west and south Wales and recorded sales growth from pound;23m in 2006 to pound;39m this year. It has a food distribution business and storage for third parties with two million square feet of cold storage holding 15,000 pallets.

The business handles frozen/chilled and recently moved into ambient, with foodservice business currently growing by 25%.

Managing director Richard Hunt put the growth down to product range as well as a “fantastic sales team”.

Pilgrim Foodservice: moved to a new pound;7m state-of-the-art depot in Boston last year. It has space for 7,900 pallets comprising cold store, ambient and chilled store. It bought four new lorries to cope with growth since the move, and has just placed an order for three more. The new lorries are helping to extend business north, down to the M25 and deeper west into the Midlands. It has over 3,000 products in stock and expects to increase to more than 4,000 in the next 12 months. The company is inviting new suppliers to test kitchens.

General manager Philip Parker said that earlier this year managing director, Peter Bateman, set a target to double turnover in five years, but after a strong spring the target was revised to three years.

Pioneer Foodservice: has depots in Carlisle, Harrington and Gateshead and an annual turnover of pound;30m. It is currently re-branding 50 vehicles with new livery.

Managing director Graham Jenkins said it has a diverse customer base, particularly in the independent profit sector and local education authorities, and averages 6,000 deliveries to more than 3,000 customers a week.

Philip Dennis Foodservice: has three distribution depots in Ilfracombe, Witney and the West Midlands and two production facilities for fresh meat and fresh fish. Turnover of pound;29m is expected in 2011. It has built up its range to more than 4,000 lines. Managing director Stephen Carr said it had increased the average drop value by 30% in recent times and achieved double-digit growth in 2010.

Lynas Food Service: managing director Andrew Lynas said it is the largest foodservice company in Northern Ireland and it is expanding south with pound;25m sales in southern Ireland. Operates from a 60,000sq ft site in Coleraine and stocks over 3,000 lines across frozen, chilled and ambient as well as produce from its own butchery department.

JB Foodservice: since 2005 when it joined Caterforce, it has doubled turnover to pound;15m. It covers Scotland and northern England with 30 trucks, and in 2010 purchased a site for future expansion. Managing director Lee Brown said it is aiming to double turnover again in the next six years.

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