Meet the Member: Savona Foodservice

Serving a busy tourist hotspot comes with its own challenges, but Savona Foodservice is tackling them head-on with a mix of local knowledge and innovation

Drive for a few minutes from Savona Foodservice’s depot in Ilfracombe and it’s almost inevitable your horizons will be filled by a glistening blue backdrop.

Bright and sparkling on a sunny day, it’s little wonder the Devon coastline is a tourist trap that snares up to six million visitors each year. A pocket of undisturbed beauty that promises the perfect getaway from daily life.

For the people who live and work here, they rely on that magnetism to keep their businesses going. A successful holiday season is crucial to keep the wolf from the door when the warmer weather departs.

“We’re still a very seasonal business but are making strong inroads to achieve a balance,” explains Kelly Williams, Savona’s Group Sales and Marketing Director.

Kelly Williams, Savona Foodservice’s Group Sales and Marketing Director

“It means we have to be flexible. You have to remember seasonal businesses can be quiet one minute and busy the next, so providing a good, quick service is crucial. That’s why we offer a same-day service within a 20-mile radius and deliver six days a week. Customers can place an order at 5pm on a Sunday, then have a busy evening. But they know if they do a top-up order, we can deliver that and the main delivery the next day.”

The nature of the region means Savona’s warehouse and delivery teams have to be ready for a surge of orders, while also providing the quality and provenance of products their customers demand. In the world of the tourist, TripAdvisor positive reviews are king for cafes, bars and restaurants.

Although Savona’s site in Devon is diversifying to take on more all-year-round customers, such as schools and care homes, Williams admits they’ll probably never achieve a “complete balance”.

Despite that, the business is hiring more permanent warehouse staff for improved continuity and efficiency, and has extended its delivered service to Cornwall and Bristol, covering Plymouth, Truro, Exeter and Tiverton across an almost 200-mile patch. Linking up with Savona’s other site in Kidlington means the Country Range Group member services the entire south region.



“Savona is great and I can trust my order will be correct when it arrives. The Country Range label is the best in the market in my opinion and because we make most of the food here, that’s important to us. The service, the way the goods are delivered and the pricing Savona offers is exactly what we need. We rely heavily on a daily delivery, so Savona’s next-day service is crucial to us.



While the extended span means Savona has a bigger catchment area for customers, delivery efficiency is a challenge. The wholesaler is a passionate believer in running a sustainable business and hopes to influence the entire industry with its actions, which include challenging customers to consider the importance of order efficiency.

“We’re working on our sustainability targets and are encouraging customers to work with us on a route consolidation programme to reduce the impact deliveries have on the environment,” says Williams.

“We’re constantly challenged on the amount of plastic used within foodservice and are working closely with manufacturers to ensure our customer base is aware of future developments to reduce the use of plastic packaging.

“There’s a fine line between ethical and practical. Through our long-term plans, we hope to set standards, encouraging the industry to follow suit. Internally, we’re focused on recycling and waste, and only send one wheelie bin to landfill each week. We’re looking into a solution that will enable us to bring cardboard back from customers in order to recycle further. We’re all passionate about the environment and want to make a difference where we can.”

Savona even took the bold move of removing all single-use plastic disposables from its ranges last year – becoming one of the first wholesalers in the UK to take the stance. But although it’s an admirable position to take, how has that been received by customers?

“We’re proud of going free of single-use plastic disposables,” says Williams. “What we mean is all single-use plastic items that are thrown away after use, for example, takeaway containers, coffee cups and lids, and straws.

“Upgrading to recyclable packaging normally comes with an upgrade in price, but instead of being a problem, we’ve gained customers on the back of it because we provide everything they need to be sustainable under one roof. The customer can then promote their own use of recyclable materials. Being on the coast, sustainability is an issue that’s close to our hearts, so we’re vigilant as a company.”



More efficiencies are made by a backhaul policy Savona runs as part of its delivery service, which collects stock from suppliers on the way back from delivery drops and transports it back to the depot, further reducing road miles.

Squeezing the most out of every journey is only one example of Savona using the tools at its disposal for more than one use. There’s a similar approach to its online offering, with a next-generation web app launched at the beginning of 2019. The online service also doubles as an up-to-date listings resource and pulls in product information from Erudus to show dietary and allergen facts that customers can view upon ordering. The additional service has proved so effective, some schools now direct parents to Savona’s website to check food contents.

This also arms call centre employees with a raft of information at the touch of a button, while a live feed showing van locations allows them to accurately pinpoint a delivery’s location within seconds.

“This offers customers an intelligent, personalised solution that provides ultimate convenience, while also giving our telesales team the tools to give better service with in-depth product information available in an  instant,” says Group Digital Manager Jenny Squire. “The technology has improved the business internally and externally, and 35% of customer turnover is now placed online.

“The site is also a valuable digital marketing tool for suppliers, as their campaigns are supported by analytics that offer measurable ROI.”

The aggregate of Savona’s initiatives has led to Williams being shortlisted for IGD’s Leading Light Award, which will be decided in November. But based on the impact Savona is making from its location and position in the supply chain, Williams’ name won’t be the only one shining brightly.

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