How can suppliers win in wholesale?

How can suppliers win in wholesale? According to Boost Drinks MD Simon Gray, speaking at FWD’s Introduction to Wholesale day last month, it isn’t as complicated as some of his fellow suppliers might think. 

Simon is well placed to give advice on cracking the wholesale market as his brands are only sold into independent retailers, and Boost’s energy is entirely focused on that route to market, to great success. He’s one of many suppliers who are giving up their time and expertise to help FWD make the case for investment in the 72,000 retailers and 330,000 foodservice operators that can be reached through partnerships with wholesalers. Over the next few weeks, our Supplier Council will be bringing together wholesalers and suppliers to work out how to win in wholesale – not only for them, but for anyone looking to develop new sales opportunities for their products.

We have already established four areas were we feel there’s a need for greater co-operation and better understanding, and each of these will be addressed by work groups which will hold their initial meetings this month and report their progress at our conference, Winning in Wholesale, on June 30.

James Bielby, FWD Chief ExecutiveThe first issue is people. There is still a sense that supplier companies can treat wholesale distribution and its vast customer base as an afterthought, a complicated backwater that’s hard to navigate. Given the rough ride they have been getting from the grocery multiples, we consistently argue that they should rethink that position. That means putting their best people in the channel, and letting them embed themselves in wholesale rather than moving them on at the very point when they have gained understanding and built relationships. Wholesale is different from other accounts, it rewards those who stay, learn how it works, and develop lasting trading relationships. So this group’s job is to encourage the investment of talent in wholesale – not only from suppliers, but from wholesalers too.

Our second group will look at processes in the supply chain. What can we do collectively to improve efficiency in distribution? This project has begun with research among wholesalers and suppliers to find out where the pain in the supply chain really is. Issues like data, waste, packaging, labeling, delivery and availability could all be improved through better understanding and a review of best practice of each link in the chain.

 We have been working hard over the last couple of years to demonstrate the opportunity in foodservice. Eating out is in growth, and consumers are looking for variety as well as value. Our foodservice work group has already done great work establishing the challenges facing foodservice operators, and how collaboratively we can help them. This year we are carrying out extensive research into the pubs, schools, fast food outlets and care homes supplied by our members.

The final group will look at retail. Although independent retailers have long been the heartland of wholesale, there’s more to be done to understand their needs and bringing those objectives together through wholesale is this group’s challenge.

 The Supplier Council is also lending its talents to our How to Win in Wholesale series of events. On March 16 suppliers are invited to Bidvest Foodservice’s Cannock site to learn How to Win in Foodservice. We’ll have suppliers giving their opinions alongside insight providers and members of Bidvest’s own team.

This kind of co-operation and willingness to share experience and expertise for the good of the channel is what makes our significant sector stand out from the other routes to market. It’s fantastic that the entire supply chain is prepared to work side-by-side to provide a better service to customers, and FWD is uniquely positioned to bring it all together.


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