James Bielby

FWD works closely with members for impact

FWD’s role as the representative body for the UK’s food and drink wholesalers relies on the co-operation of our members. But it also relies on the suppliers, insight and service providers, and technology innovators that are integral to keeping the wheels of this £27 billion distribution industry turning.

Bringing all of these interests together for their mutual benefit is a key function of a trade body. It’s our job to provide a space where everyone with a stake in the success of the 400,000 retail and catering businesses our members supply and support can come together to discuss efficiency, innovation and effectiveness up and down the supply chain.

Our Supplier Council brings together equal numbers of wholesalers and suppliers four times a year to discuss issues beyond the trading agenda and create workstreams to take the sector forward. This year, those workstreams range from tweaks to transformations and from easy wins to complex restructures.


In the easy-win category, we have support from suppliers for more of our category networking events, which focus on a particular product category and how it can be enhanced in convenience and foodservice. Topics suggested for this year include food-to-go, low- and no-alcohol lines and plant-based products. The Council has suggested creating a resource of meet the member articles and films, which will help brief suppliers on the individual operations of the FWD’s 600 wholesaler members.

It has also asked that we repeat our 2016 research into what chefs and caterers want from their wholesalers, including how they order and the kind of support they look for from product suppliers.

Among the more transformative workstreams is a project to standardise data on wholesalers’ new line forms (NLF). A lot of suppliers’ time goes into completing the many different forms and the suggestion is that FWD could provide a template NLF that would work for most, if not all, of our members. With a project already underway to produce a single, centrally held database for allergen information, it’s not impossible to imagine a similar solution for the wider information-sharing need.


To move these projects forward, the Supplier Council will break into work groups that will drive process innovation, supply chain efficiency, cost reduction and adding value to the customer.

The groups will also take forward the drive towards a comprehensive market read for wholesale and look at knowledge sharing – both in face-to-face sessions and via e-learning platforms – which will help to increase understanding and communication in wholesale. You can hear more about the above at this year’s FWD conference in June. Tickets are already selling fast, so get in touch to guarantee your place.

Colleagues and competitors working together towards an aim of reducing costs, improving service to customers and offering value to consumers are objectives in which wholesalers and suppliers alike agree and FWD is committed to bringing wholesale together to drive them forward.

allergens column customer service food-to-go FWD FWD column FWD conference James Bielby low and no alcohol Members new line forms NLF plant-based products supplier council suppliers value Wholesalers