FWD Chairman Martin Williams has called on the food and drink wholesale sector to work "Fitter, faster, leaner and smarter together” to take advantage of growth opportunities in a changing and challenging trading environment. In his closing address to delegates at FWD’s Winning in Wholesale conference, Williams described the current economic and political climate as "the most dynamic, disruptive and transformational time ever seen,” but concluded that these were conditions in which an adaptable supply chain could thrive through close co-operation.
Referring to challenges such as the expected post-Brexit economic downturn and the imposition of the National Living Wage, Williams said: “It’s incredible what’s happening in our market at the moment and how we survive and prosper is a credit to all of us. Whatever your view of the challenges ahead I’m sure you agree that we have to get fitter, we have to move faster, we’ve got to be leaner, we’ve got to work smarter, but most important of all we have to do it together.”
The areas where the sector could perform better were productivity, customer service and people, he said. "What can we standardise, what can we share, particularly with evolving technology, and how can we measure what we do more effectively?"
"We have got to help our customers like never before,” he added. "Suppliers helping wholesalers, and wholesalers helping retailers and foodservice operators to sell more and provide a better service to consumers."
‘We needs to recruit, train and retain the best people, and help them make better contributions to our business because we will all benefit from that.”
Throughout the conference the 230 delegates learned how FWD is bringing wholesalers and suppliers together to tackle all three of these areas. New research commissioned by FWD and GS1 UK highlighted inefficiencies in the supply chain, and FWD also revealed the results of a survey of foodservice operators’ needs. A new group with FWD’s Supplier Council is exploring ways to recruit bright young talents into the sector and help young suppliers and wholesalers to build careers in the industry.
“We have done a lot together but there is still a lot to do,” Williams said. “ Let’s invest in wholesale, let’s invest in our brands, and let’s invest in our people. If we work together, we can grow together, and the current economic uncertainty can be an opportunity for shared success."