As part of our #FreshFoodInsiders series, we spoke with three fresh food distributors about what they see as the biggest challenges facing the industry. Like almost every founder, owner or manager we talk to, all three know fresh food wholesale inside out. They are passionate about the products they offer and proud of the customer relationships they have built.
But even these successful business operators deal every day with the long-term challenges facing wholesalers and their customers. Here’s what they would like to see change in the coming year.
1. Low spend per head is hurting hospitality - and wholesale
Andy Richards of wholesale seafood supplier Premier Fish estimates that his hospitality customers have seen spend per head drop by 30% in recent years. He puts this down to factors like COVID lockdowns and the war in Ukraine, both of which had fed into cost-of-living pressures. Inevitably, those smaller restaurant orders translate into reduced wholesale deliveries and lower profitability per customer.
2. Staffing remains a long-term problem
Everyone agreed with Eammon Curley of meat wholesaler E&P Catering Butchers: you cannot get experienced butchers for love nor money. In the UK, part of the problem has been the loss of EU nationals following Brexit. But, as in many countries, it also seems that skilled trades like butchery and fish mongering just don’t attract people as they once did. This has led some fresh food wholesalers to hire overseas nationals on work visas – not a cheap option but one that helps them secure a skilled and stable workforce.
3. How we buy fresh food drives cost of sales up
The challenge Ali Ahmet of fruit and veg wholesaler Adams Food Service would like to see tackled is the high cost of sales. Good salespeople are hard to find and are expensive when you do. Those costs inevitably get passed along to the customer at the end of the day.
Ali would like the whole industry to go to contract buying. In his view, agreeing prices for, say, 12 months would reduce the need to constantly sell and resell to existing customers, which would benefit both suppliers and their customers in the long run. Of course, that would increase the importance of having processes or tools in place to carefully manage margins. (One of the things Fresho can take care of is Margin Automation).
How technology can help in fresh food wholesale
Challenges like these mean that running your fresh food wholesale business efficiently is more important than ever. An order management, picking, delivery and payments platform like Fresho can help. This post on overcoming labour shortages is just one example of how.