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WHOLESALERS from across Scotland have been rewarded for their innovation, excellence and professionalism at the prestigious Scottish Wholesale Achievers awards.

Achievers, now in its 18th year and organised by the Scottish Wholesale Association, saw Bidfood Scotland, JW Filshill and United Wholesale (Scotland) each win three top awards on the night. CJ Lang & Son won two while Booker and JB Foods each claimed a category accolade.

Bidfood Scotland won the Great Place to Work award, sponsored by AG Barr. Ian Johnstone, impulse sales controller for Scotland at AG Barr, said: “The desire to make it a ‘great place to work’ came from the highest level in the business to the lowest and their ability to cover all areas related to employees feeling valued is what set them apart from the rest.”

The Edinburgh and Larbert-based wholesaler also shared the Best Delivered Operation (Foodservice) category – sponsored by Pritchitts – with JB Foods of Loanhead. Nigel Austick, head of national accounts at Lakeland Dairies, described Bidfood as a “true national business who see themselves as a local part of the community, working in strategic alliance with some fantastic local, bespoke suppliers”.

JB Foods, he said, was a “true independent business demonstrating a passion to think big and bold, challenging the norm and themselves to push boundaries and find a customer solution within our ever-changing environment”.

Bidfood Scotland and Glasgow-based JW Filshill were joint winners of the Best Marketing Initiative, sponsored by Premier Foods.

Bidfood’s ‘Grabbing Goodness’ initiative and Filshill’s ‘KeyStore Football Fever’ campaign impressed lead judge Ross Brown, channel controller at Premier Foods, who praised all entrants in the category for their passion and effectiveness in “delivering key strategic messages on behalf of their members, customers and consumers”.

Both JW Filshill and Dundee-based CJ Lang & Son shared the Best Delivered Operation (Retail) award, sponsored by Lucozade Ribena Suntory whose regional account manager Carolyn Thomson commented: “All entrants were of a very high standard, with all working on future-proofing their businesses with great vision. The top two entrants were so close that LRS senior management had to audit the full process and make the final decision.

“Customer surveys showed how supportive these wholesalers are – service and customer care are at the heart of both operations. Both also demonstrated excellent development paths for all employees, thereby keeping talent and experience within their business.”

Filshill also won Best Licensed Wholesaler, sponsored by Halewood Wines & Spirits, with the supplier’s senior national account manager, Shane Nimmo, praising the wholesaler’s collaborative working with suppliers and its “strategy for bringing NPD to market and working with their customers in a progressive manner to ensure they are ahead of market trends”.

Best Cash & Carry, sponsored by JTI and one of the most closely contested categories, went to United Wholesale (Scotland) for its depot at Queenslie in the east end of Glasgow.

Archie MacLellan, the supplier’s multiple account executive (independent wholesalers), pointed to the Queenslie depot’s rebirth as a high-tech, innovative and interactive “warehouse of the future” with digital screens highlighting promotional activity and “category advice available throughout the depot to a higher standard than any other depot”.

United Wholesale (Scotland) also raised a glass to Lorraine MacPherson, its symbol development manager who won Employee of the Year, sponsored by Philip Morris International.

The judges highlighted the “warmth and sincerity” of retailer testimonials about Lorraine, saying she was held in very high esteem and “would go over and above to meet retailer needs, even stretching into her own personal time” to achieve the best possible customer service.

Best Symbol Group, sponsored by JUUL Labs, saw CJ Lang impress the judges with the way it has updated the business across the board to maximise output and quality of service to the retailer.

“There is such a focus on quality of service across all areas of the business which was so clearly demonstrated in their entry presentation,” commented Gary Routledge, senior national business manager (wholesale and convenience) at JUUL Labs.

Two new awards were presented for the first time this year – Green Wholesaler of the Year, sponsored by Zero Waste Scotland, and Rising Star of Wholesale, presented by the Scottish Wholesale Association.

Booker triumphed as the SWA’s inaugural Green Wholesaler of the Year. Zero Waste Scotland’s communications and PR manager, Claire Munro, praised the wholesaler’s long-term commitment to sustainability.

She said: “No stone was left unturned by the team at all levels to cut carbon emissions, reduce energy use, waste prevention and minimisation, boosting recycling, and stocking a range of environmentally-friendly products.”

SWA’s first Rising Star of Wholesale award went to Jason Butler, operations support manager at United Wholesale (Scotland).

Judges Moira Stalker, skills manager at the Food and Drink Federation Scotland and Alison Nimmo, programme manager at Developing the Young Workforce at Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire, interviewed entrants and pointed to Jason’s “passionate account” of his achievements at UWS, including his humble approach and his pride in his company and his colleagues.

Moving on to the suppliers’ awards, AG Barr came out on top – winning four of the awards, including the fiercely-contested category of Best Overall Service, judged by members of the SWA voting each month for the shortlisted suppliers over a four-month period.

Supplier Sales Executive of the Year, sponsored by Unitas Wholesale, went to the company’s regional business development manager for Scotland, Steven McGarry.

In Project Scotland, which highlights suppliers’ understanding of the Scottish wholesale industry and their commitment to the sector, AG Barr won for its ‘Launch of Irn-Bru Energy’ – the biggest soft drinks launch in Scotland last year.

The judges were encouraged by the entries which focused on wholesale-tailored activity from suppliers – and AG Barr was the runaway winner with an outstanding score of 97%.

Finally, Best Advertising Campaign, which saw wholesalers vote for their favourite advert, went to Irn-Bru ‘Get Some Irn In You’.

Best Foodservice Supplier, again judged by members of the SWA voting each month for the shortlisted suppliers over a four-month period, saw Unilever Food Solutions most impress wholesalers.

Colin Smith, SWA chief executive, congratulated all the winners and said: “Our industry continues to experience unprecedented change and I applaud our wholesalers and suppliers who continue to find new and innovative ways to grow their businesses and develop their staff, create new revenue streams and provide the best possible customer service.”

“As your trade association, we are working on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome for industry across a raft of legislative issues, including DRS (deposit return scheme).

“We are also working to create our very own SWA Wholesale Sustainability Charter and, of course, we have launched our new SWA Training Academy.

“Developing a skilled workforce and working with members to invest in the future sustainability of the wholesale industry is top of the agenda for us in our 80th anniversary year.”

Almost 460 people attended the Achievers gala dinner and awards presentation, hosted by TV presenter Jennifer Reoch, at the Sheraton Grand, Edinburgh on Thursday, 13th February.

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