For more than 20 years as a leading foodservice wholesaler, we’ve supplied fresh, frozen, ambient food, beers, wines, spirits, catering essentials and catering equipment to customers in a wide range of sectors. Lucy Pedrick, Head of Insights and Customer Experience at Bidfood UK, spoke to Wholesale Manager.

How is Bidfood set up in terms of a local depot network? How much of your business is done online? Do you offer an app for customers to use?

At Bidfood we’re proud to have 24 depots operating right across the UK, allowing us to offer a truly unique local service. What’s more, the majority of our depot teams are no more than 80 miles away from their customers. We offer our customers the opportunity to trade online with us, regardless of which depot their deliveries come from, via our ecommerce platform, Bidfood Direct. We’re seeing continuous growth of customers moving to online ordering, with 56.6% of our business already online at present. In addition to this, we also offer an app for customers who trade on Bidfood Direct, which is available on all devices on Andriod and iOS.

How ‘green’ is Bidfood as a company? What’s Bidfood’s approach to food waste and packaging? How ‘green’ is your logistics?

Last year we radically changed the way we approached sustainability as a business. Instead of having one person spearheading the sustainability agenda, we have now set up work streams throughout the business focusing on a whole programme of activity, led by directors and involving over 50 people from various areas of expertise across the business. So whether it’s looking at managing our impacts, packaging, focusing on healthy and sustainable choices, modern slavery, community engagement, energy reduction or more, we have the right person working on it and in the right place in our business to make a difference. Many sustainability issues are really complex, so we need subject matter experts in each area, rather than a generalist trying to do everything, which is why we radicalised our approach to our strategy.

In regards to food waste, we’ve signed up to ‘Target, Measure, Act’, as an extension of our C2025 ambition to cut the carbon, water and waste associated with food & drink by at least one-fifth in 10 years. We were already trying to minimise our food waste but this commitment also involves measuring tangible progress made, working to overcome challenges in surplus food redistribution, engaging employees to change their attitudes and behaviour towards food waste and engaging both customers and suppliers in this issue.

We’re working on reducing unecessry packaging, so have aligned our objectives to the UK Plastics Pact. Progress on this so far, has meant that we’ve agreed packaging reductions with suppliers that have the potential to reduce plastic by over 46,000 tonnes per year.

In terms of logistics, we’ve launched an ambitious programme of operational efficiency across our sites, that will see us roll out new routing technology in all our depots in 2020/21, reducing mileage and emissions. We have also made progress in reducing our environmental impacts thanks to lower emission refrigerants and LED lighting. For more information on this, please see our 2019 sustainable development report.

As a company how are you addressing ‘social’ issues such as equal opportunity, diversity and mental health?

In a traditionally male-dominated industry like ours, we know social issues can be a particular challenge; from attracting women into wholesale, to squashing the taboo of talking about mental health. Our People and Sustainability team have been working with our depots to drive local change and listening to our people to understand what’s most important to them from a health and wellbeing perspective. For example, in the last year, our flexible working practices such as part-time working, term-time working and home working have increased by 10 per cent, and we’ve trialled the introduction of mental health first aiders in a number of teams.

This year we’re placing much more focus on the individual and how we can make work matter for our people by taking a more personal approach to people leadership, bolstered by development programmes for our first line managers. Looking outside our business, we’re a corporate supporter of ‘Catalyse Change’ which aims to empower, up-skill and inspire women into senior roles in sustainability, to be the leaders and policy makers of the future. As well as this, we are a signatory of the ACS ‘Dignity at Work’ charter. Our three corporate charities, Springboard, Hospitality Action and The Prince’s Trust also look to support people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those within the industry who have fallen on hard times.

How did you come to work at Bidfood in the first place? When did you join Bidfood, and what jobs have you done with the business before your current role?

I joined the Insights Team off the back of a career in research and insights, and of course, a passion for food. I’d worked in research for years, many of which were spent with agencies working across a variety of projects and industries. I took the leap to client-side, joining The Rank Group heading up the Mecca Bingo insights team, where I took care of customer understanding in regards to gaming, food and beverage, frequency and innovation.

From there I went to Nestle Professional as a maternity cover Category Insights Manager for Sweet Food and Confectionary, working with the category team to shape desserts for foodservice and placement for confectionary. I think it was this role that really triggered an interest in food research, so after a brief spell at a public sector organisation following the maternity contract, I joined Bidfood as Insights Manager over four years ago.

When did you become Head of Insights & Customer Experience? What does your role involve day to day?

At the start of this year I took up the ‘Head of’ role as maternity cover for 2020 – a position I also covered in 2017. There are four of us in the team covering a whole host of growing research requirements to answer questions from across the business.

To plan for our year, I host clinic-style meetings with key stakeholders to understand their objectives and business priorities, and where research and insights can provide the intelligence they need. With this feedback we categorise the topics for projects and start to scope out the value of each to our customers, our business and the foodservice industry, all in line with our ‘five key ingredients’.

We tackle such a wide variety of projects that look at emerging generations and their impact on foodservice, either as customers, employees or suppliers of the future, to single-use packaging, constantly searching for clarity on the pitfalls as well as benefits.

One of our biggest projects is Trends, which we start planning early on in the year, ready to launch at the end of they year. Our trends launch provides various teams with the information needed to shape our range, update our innovation pipeline, inform customers and develop their future offering.

Who has inspired and encouraged you in your career?

I’m not sure there is a particular person who has inspired me in my career. Working at Nestle probably inspired me to focus my insights career in food. I found that was the starting point of not only recognising the role of insights in respecting and managing a brand, but also opened my eyes and sparked my passion for insights in foodservice. Having a spell outside of the industry made me realise I had really enjoyed, therefore it was an easy decision to make to go back. Insights in foodservice is so enlightening – working between the balance of the nutritional role of food and drink and the indulgent element, whilst also recognising the influences of so many areas of external factors and the differences in needs and desires across generations.

Looking back, what have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the UK foodservice industry over the years?

As part of compiling our 2020 trends guide, we have developed a timeline of how our world has changed over the last 30 years, 1990-2020. We looked at a whole host of elements from technology through to chefs, and it’s amazing to think how lifestyles have changed in that time.

Technology was pretty low key at the start of the 1990s – the internet and mobile phones didn’t really exist, but 30 years on we couldn’t live without either of them. Mobile phones are the communication route for so many things, to and from the consumer. They can find somewhere to eat that meets any dining out or on demand occasion, they can book a table or place an order, they can pay with apps, and finally, they can place a review for the entire dining out population to see. Along with this, today there is so much more focus on on-demand dining – eating out was a rare treat 30 years ago, takeaway was a luxury that only fish and chip shops, the local Chinese or Indian could offer – delivery of the latter two at a push.

Today it’s all about on-the-go takeaway and less often about dining in, and it’s hard to recall such a focus on allergens and intolerances – today there is a menu choice for everyone, with a lot more individualism accounted for and accepted.

In your present role do you personally go out to meet customers?

Absolutely – there are a few ways in which I meet with customers. Whether that’s joining our sales teams in the field to understand the types of questions and needs customers have, or, as part of an agenda to share insights, research or trends.

Do you get personally involved in recipe development and range selection?

Recipe development is just one of the many enjoyable parts of the role. A key part of our trends initiative development is working with our chefs once we’ve identified the trends and their related products, ingredients etc, to design the recipes that suit the trends, allowing our customers to bring them to life on their menus. The trends are also instrumental in shaping our product range from meat and beer, wines and spirits through to catering supplies and equipment, everything from plating to presentation.

How would you sum up Bidfood as a business these days? What makes you different as a foodservice wholesaler?

Bidfood is a wholesaler to the foodservice industry, providing food, drink and catering supplies across all sectors, from nursery care to nursing care. Our business not only focuses on delivering end-to-end service excellence in the fundamentals of order provision, but also on being experts in foodservice constantly staying on top of what’s happening today and know what’s coming up on the horizon.

Our trends initiative is a great example of this, but that’s just one project the insights team works on to track the future. We look at the future of the next generations; at the influence of the UN’s sustainability goals on foodservice; at the functional and nutritional role of food; the specific needs of different sectors; along with exploring other contextual elements that influence the sector, to help our customers understand how to shape their business to accommodate the changing consumer, whatever sector you’re in.

How big is your product range, and what proportion of your products are own brand versus supplier branded?

We have 20,181 product lines that are available to all our customers, as well as some specifically designed customer nominated & bespoke lines. These include everything from ambient, chilled, and frozen food, to a variety of non-food products (including everything from crockery, professional cleaning supplies, catering equipment and more).

Do you supply alcohol as well as food and soft drinks? What about catering equipment?

We have a great range of beer, wines and spirits as well as low and no alcohol choices to meet the growing demands of consumers to drink less alcohol. We have qualified experts within our team who can offer an array of services to help support customers with their alcohol offering. From bespoke food and wine pairing, to support in menu design to help utilise insights that will help maximise customers’ profits; through to dedicated WSET Diploma qualified trainers that can offer tailored training to customers. Our soft drinks range supports this too, acknowledging that non-drinkers have – for a long time – being crying out for a better choice of soft drinks when eating out.

We have an entire team devoted to catering supplies and equipment, everything from kitchen foil to kitchen design and everything in between. As sustainability is a key focus for us, our teams are consistently focused on innovation to ensure our catering supplies range represents the best products available, offering diverse choices for customers.

What are the biggest food and drink product trends you’re currently seeing in foodservice and how are you responding to them and being proactive about anticipating further developments?

Our food and drink trends for 2020 reflect what we’ve identified for the next year or two. Simply Global recognises that our world is shrinking and that we are much closer to communities, cultures and cuisines of the wider world, and therefore want to enjoy these dishes and drinks either at home or out of home. This year we’re seeing a rising street scene of regional Middle Eastern cuisines, plus a lot more evolving from The Pacific. From the spicy flavours of South America to the freshness of fish in Hawaii. Skilful Flavour encompasses the embracing of old and new skills to create the same dish or drink in a new way.

Beyond the Basics looks at how simple dishes are undergoing a make-over through the use of better quality and often premium ingredients. Some of the staples we see i.e. toast, sandwiches and salads, are being upgraded with better quality bread, interesting fillings/toppings and layered with more texture. The same with drinks – soft drinks are more grown-up, alcohol-free alternatives are more interesting and cocktails are a lot more versatile. Feed the Senses is all about the fun in food; sharing and socialising. This trend is a great one for escapism and adventure, trying new things with the opportunity to share it on social. Finally, Creatively Sustainable focuses on our own wellbeing and that of the planet, from the adoption of sustainable diets to the behaviour of managing the waste.

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