Inside… Bidvest Foodservice

17/02/2016 - 07:35
In Cost Sector Catering’s series of Q&As with suppliers, we talk to Tony Ball, director of sales, national accounts for Bidvest Foodservice.

Cost Sector Catering: What have been the challenges and main drivers for your business in the cost sector?

Tony Ball: We’re absolutely dedicated to supporting our customers including those in the cost sector, helping them respond to challenges and grow their business. The free school meal legislation meant that, as a business, we’ve focused on helping our customers understand the implications and respond accordingly. This has involved working with customers and suppliers to ensure we effectively manage the increase in volume, as well as provide menu cycles, recipes and advice.

In care homes, the increasing number of residents with dementia means it’s essential we stock the right products to cater for soft diets, and residents requiring fortified meals and snacks. This is where we need to offer innovative products as well as the best recipes for their needs.

In B&I, our customers are always under pressure to keep up with the offer on the high street, so launching innovative products, and working with customers to find recipes and packaging that reflects what’s currently trending is essential. Last year, we launched a guide called New for You specifically highlighting the products that we launch each month.

Are you working on any partnerships/initiatives with any particular sector?

This year, we’ll be supporting our care home customers with advice, products, recipes and newsletters during Nutrition & Hydration Week. We’ll also be running our own Fortification Week again, to help raise awareness of malnutrition. We’re currently talking to colleagues in the school food industry about how we can support school lunch clubs over the holiday periods, including next summer, to tackle holiday hunger. As partners of the National Association of Care Catering and LACA, we’re able to remain at the forefront of industry developments and understand exactly what our customers need.

What are your bestsellers?

This varies greatly by customer and sector, but we stock a wide range of recognised consumer brands and own brands to give customers choice, and the value, quality and innovation they are looking for in their particular sector. Essential from-scratch ingredients like chopped tomatoes, flour and Red Tractor cheese are bestsellers across all sectors. Popular products from manufacturers over recent years have included Bird’s ice cream mix from Premier Foods, Jelly Bouillons from Unilever and Maggi crunchy bake from Nestlé Professional.

What trends do you see emerging in this sector? Is any particular trend spurring on your product development plans?

Provenance of products and, in particular, British food continues to be important, particularly in schools where many have achieved or are working towards a Food for Life Catering Mark.

There is also a continuing trend for premiumisation, which is driving quality and consumer expectations, particularly in B&I. To reflect this, we’ve launched our own Premium Selection brand including bread as well as high-quality ingredients and ready meals. The Craft Guild of Chefs endorses all 70 products. We pride ourselves on the quality of our products and offer a comprehensive range of British, Red Tractor, MSC, organic and RSPCA Freedom Foods lines.

What are your objectives for 2016?

We are 100% committed to working with our customers to help grow their businesses and, in 2016, we’ll continue to do this by focusing on service excellence, great food, innovation and offering them real value. My one wish would be to continue to see the universal infant free school meals initiative (UIFSM) continue to receive government funding. This will be essential to support the challenge of childhood obesity and help improve attainment levels in schools. UIFSM has been one of the most exciting developments in recent years, and we continue to work closely with our school customers. We’re now looking forward to working with our customers on the challenges that 2016 may bring.

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