The scale of wholesale
Supporting independents, creating jobs and feeding the UK

Food and drink wholesale distribution makes a vital contribution to the UK economy, turning over £31 billion, employing nearly 90,000 people evenly across the country, and generating gross value added of £3.4 billion annually

Our latest research into the economic contribution of FWD wholesalers is compiled by CEBR with the co-operation of our members, and is now available to download.


Wholesale is HUGE

With depots located in all regions of the UK, FWD members supply fresh, chilled, frozen and ambient food and drinks, and associated products, to 72,000 retail businesses and 330,000 catering or foodservice businesses.

The sector’s customers include independent shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels, care homes and pubs, as well as catering outlets in private companies and public institutions such as hospitals, schools, universities and prisons.

Around 55 per cent of food and drink wholesale distributors’ revenue comes from sales to small, independent retailers; this supports 537,000 jobs in the wider economy

Members of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors operate Symbol or Fascia groups, which combine the buying power of independent shops and set store standards with which group members must comply in return for the wholesaler’s help in merchandising, sourcing new products and business advice.

Around 35 per cent of food and drink wholesale distributors’ revenue comes from sales to catering and foodservice providers who supply food and drink to a wide range of organisations including schools, hospitals, social clubs, guest houses, coffee shops and petrol forecourts; this supports 569,000 jobs in the wider economy.

Wholesale contribution
Tax and spending

The activities of food and drink wholesale distributors generated £662 million in income-related taxes in 2021.

FWD wholesalers spent £26bn with suppliers, supporting 100,000 upstream jobs, and their employees spent £1.4bn on UK-based businesses.