Bidfood – a new name for a dynamic market

Andrew Selley Bidfood Bidvest UK chief executive
Andrew Selley, chief executive
14/03/2017 - 12:47
From April 3 Bidvest Foodservice will begin trading under the name Bidfood. David Foad talked to chief executive Andrew Selley and group sales director Andy Kemp about what this means for the UK foodservice wholesaler.

Q: What, if anything, is changing as a result of you becoming Bidfood?

Andrew Selley: Nothing has changed in terms of our approach to the market. Our slogan ‘service excellence’ is still our strength and we live by our food credentials.

In May 2016 Bidvest Foodservice businesses – ours in the UK and others around the world – separated from the Bidvest Group when it listed independently on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

The listing meant that Bidvest Foodservice UK, along with the other Bidvest Foodservice businesses around the world, have all changed their name to Bidfood reflect this.

In choosing the new name, it was important to retain a link to the company’s heritage as well as to reflect what is at the very heart of the business, hence the name Bidfood was developed.

It’s no secret that as our business has evolved over the years, so too has our name. When we made the move from Bidvest 3663 to Bidvest Foodservice, we also launched a new mission, vision and employee values, all centring on service excellence and offering the best customer experience in the market.

Although our name is changing, these principles and our wider business priorities remain firmly in our focus, and I believe this is a stronger brand for us and for our Bidfood businesses globally.

Q: How long is the name change transition period expected to last?

AS: It formally starts on April 3 and by June 30th we expect to have all the major signage switched to Bidfood. The new name and logo will be introduced in phases across the business including our corporate website, fleet livery, and depot signage.

Q: Is this just happening at a corporate level or will brands, services or product lines within the company also be changing?

Andy Kemp: Changing our products and brands is a continual process, there is no major re-launch in that way. We’re passionate about delivering service excellence, making life easier for customers and helping them to grow, and over the last 18 months we’ve been focused on making important internal changes to meet customer needs now and in the future.

We are fully committed to investing in our local depots, our teams and our services and delivering great food, the best choice in the market and innovative and exciting ranges to achieve this.

Q: How big is the Bidfood UK business?

AS: We turn over about £2.5bn through wholesale and logistics and employ 6,600 staff. That makes us similar in size to Brakes, though the two of us together plus Booker still only have about 40% of the market. That means we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about our main competitors because there is a lot of business to compete for against smaller, agile and very responsive local and regional operators. That is where we focus our energies.

Andy Kemp

Q: Can you tell us about the level of investment going into local depots, teams and services?

AS: I’m not going to give you detailed figures but it amounts to ‘tens of millions of pounds’, and is driven by our desire to be better than our competitors – nationally and locally – in terms of food, technology and infrastructure. We have opened centres in Wakefield, Chepstow, Bicester and the new head office in Slough in the last year or so because we believe that local depots help us get closer to customers. It’s a different approach, and is more costly at first, but we think it drives speed and is worth it because it allows us to offer flexibility alongside speed of response.

Q: You have mentioned ‘service excellence’ and ‘best customer experience’ as important. Can you give examples?

AS: Regional foods are important, they satisfy local demand from operators – whether they are looking to put it on their menus for tourism and visitor reasons or to help them work towards an accreditation like the Soil Association’s Food For Life. They also offer an important outlet for small, local producers. That is why we list more than 300 local products in the south west, for instance, that are bespoke to Devon and Cornwall.

Q: How can you help your customers manage food price inflation?

AK: We have a major portfolio of own-brand labels, and we can help caterers look at their current purchasing in terms of product mix and explore changes. We can also look at the recipes and menus they offer and make suggestions, such as switching to a more vegetable-based Mediterranean diet base that can be made at lower cost.

Vegetarian and flexitarian (meat and fish reducing) diets are cheaper and becoming quite trendy, so the secret is to be on the front foot with something like this. We have looked closely at Italian food, which is often cheaper and healthier. What we won’t be accepting from our suppliers are blanket price increases. We insist on seeing a breakdown of any cost rises and satisfying ourselves that we’ve done everything we can to mitigate any rise before that is passed on to customers.

We are open, honest and factual with our customers about the fact we can’t leverage much. We know the inflation rate today and have a good idea of what it will be in six months, but it’s impossible to have a good idea beyond that. All we can do for our customers is to start work with them now to prepare.

About Bidfood

Offers a 13,000-strong product range  - both own brand and leading foodservice brands – from 22 depots operating across the UK. That means the majority of depot teams are no more than 80 miles away from their customers.

ViVAS is the company’s range of over 250 wines, beers, ciders and spirits that has been developed in partnership with Bibendum, a leading UK independent wine merchant.

Also available is a range of catering equipment, from cutlery to cookware, cleaning and disposables.

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