Food and drink wholesalers and distributors supply and support over 400,000 retail and foodservice businesses across the UK, from independent convenience stores to farm shops, from hotels and schools to restaurants and staff canteens.
Over one million jobs are supported by a supply chain that provides vital services in cities, towns and villages all over the country, bringing choice, convenience and competitive prices right to the doorstep of millions of consumers.
Members of the FWD turn over £30bn a year, more than any supermarket except Tesco, contribute £460m in tax to the Exchequer, and generate £2.8bn of gross added value to the UK economy.
Wholesale distribution provides a link between manufacturers and independent retailers and caterers. It is a huge industry that supports high streets and local communities across the country.
The role of wholesale distributors is to buy product in bulk, at cheaper prices than a small independent buyer could negotiate, and sell and distribute them to smaller individual buyers.
There are two business models used: individual wholesalers and buying groups. Individual wholesalers buy, sell and distribute goods as one entity. Buying groups are membership organisations that negotiate purchases from manufacturers on behalf of all their members, which tend to be smaller wholesale operations; the members are responsible for selling and distributing the goods.
The two methods of distribution that are used are delivery and cash and carry. Wholesalers often have their own transportation operations to deliver goods directly to their customers. Cash and carry sites are large depots where businesses can go to buy and collect their goods. Wholesale distributors will use one or both of these methods.
FWD members operate 800 cash and carry depots and distribution centres around the UK, supplying 73,000 shops and 330,000 foodservice operators.
With a combined fleet of more than 7,000 delivery vehicles, they provide fresh, chilled, frozen and ambient goods to every postcode in the UK, with more than 200,000 deliveries every week to independent businesses. They also supply schools, hospitals, prisons and contract caterers.
More than 150,000 business customers visit cash and carry depots every week, including retailers, restaurant and café owners, hoteliers, pub landlords and care home managers.
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What does the future of distribution look like? At the recent FWD conference there was a lot of talk about drones, robot couriers, electric vehicles and even good old-fashioned bicycles d