Cost Sector Catering: Several months on, has the switch to the Bidfood name from Bidvest Foodservice made any difference to the business?
David Jones: The name has resonated very well with everyone. On changing the name yet again [prior to Bidvest Foodservice the company was called Bidvest 3663], the response has been really positive.
Everything has been rebranded with only a little more to do. Our team was geared up to do the rebranding to make sure we had it right.
What are Bidfood’s main challenges currently in the cost sector?
Generally, customers are always looking to drive prices down while maintaining quality, so we are always reviewing products and benchmarks – whether it’s quality or price.
The biggest challenge is the inflationary situation and maintaining value offerings, which means when suppliers put the price up, we have to see what other products are available.
Even without inflationary pressures, we benchmark on a weekly basis, but when you do have them, you prioritise it. We need to be confident we buy well and make sure everything is commercially viable.
We try to build relationships but in this environment you have to go out to market, so there is a lot of work done by [Bidfood’s] Technical Services to support the business. When looking at a 150% increase in new suppliers, that’s significant.
This is a by-product of Brexit and pound devaluation, so Technical Services need to support the business to mitigate this cost to our customers. Anything imported could see cost increases; we would check whether it’s legitimate or not.
We have an opportunity to add value to customers and make things easier for them with lots of progressive activity. Currently, we are generating a report to help them understand Government Buying Standards criteria. Public sector bodies have to report on compliance and we help them to comply and get through the red tape.
Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) guidelines have helped transform hospital catering. What advice are you offering operators?
We issued some guidelines but also channelled a report using the information we held. Technical Services generated a report to inform customers about compliance with the standards within CQUIN, and we want to progress the work we’ve already rolled out to support our customers.
We’ve done the same for our Food for Life-endorsed new ‘Traffic Light Food’ report.
Our knowledge and awareness is higher now than it ever was so this is a natural progress.
We use a lot of snap surveys to understand what our customers want; when they tell us what they need, it helps us generate their requirements.
What are your bestsellers in the cost sector? Is there anything particular influencing NPD?
Our core commodity products and our Everyday Favourites range are probably our bestsellers in the cost sector.
Free-from has taken off with significant growth and there is a lot of demand for healthier eating.
Equally important is to meet regional needs. We have 22 regional depots and each one has the ability to source locally so they can offer bespoke goods from the local demographic. This means 80% of products will be the same across the network, but each depot can source local for its local customers from a regional perspective. For instance, Dunbar in Scotland would have a different range to Slough [in England] because the locals have different tastes.
What’s on your wish list for 2018?
To stop inflation, get more clarity on the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ and to ensure when we Brexit we adopt all the European food legislation in situ.
Personally, I am very keen to make sure we eat more vegetables. We are all aware of five-a-day, but we need to make sure the next generation eat more fruit and veg and know more about where food comes from.