Welcome to the February edition of Wholesale Manager, where keeping up with fast changing trends is the theme, after we learn that one of the biggest conglomerates in the food and drink industry are open to selling off one of the UK’s best-known brands. Graeme Pitkethly, Unilever’s chief financial officer, said the company was considering all options for its tea division – that includes PG Tips – including a total or partial sale and partnerships.


Although tea is still big business, changing consumer trends suggest coffee and herbal teas are in and the traditional cup of black tea is out, which makes one take stock of how hard it is to maintain momentum in a fast-evolving landscape.

With this in mind, we welcome Caterforce’s new Managing Director Gary Mullineux to his role in our Who’s Who in Wholesaling interview. Previously interim boss, Gary has landed the position permanently and is “looking forward to the challenge and continuing the growth of Caterforce”.

The Caterforce Group is made up of seven of the biggest wholesalers in the UK and has some impressive numbers: 2,751 members of staff, 23 depots, 13 cash & carry and food outlets, and 584 vehicles delivering 701,659 cases per week.

But as the story of PG Tips shows, numbers aren’t everything. Evolving to consumer trends is just as important and Gary has already set his sights on the convenience-led channels such as fast food, coffee, sandwich and bakery shops and travel sites.

“I read recently that a third of meals are now bought to go and it is estimated that the Food-To-Go market will be worth £23.5 Billion by 2022,” says Gary, who also says veganism is still rising and probably the biggest growth trend at the moment.

If anyone knows about changing tastes and keeping brands relevant then it should be Matt Wilson, Britvic Marketing Controller for fruit carbonates. Interviewed for our Meet the Marketer feature, Matt describes himself as a commercially astute marketer with a range of industry insight under his belt, having worked on some of the UK’s most beloved FMCG brands.

Matt says the most exciting aspects of his job is the ability to plan and execute brand initiatives that make a big impact in the market and more importantly, are well received by consumers, shoppers and retailers.

“My role is a balance between helping to set the strategy and direction for the brands and executing the plan with the help of our brilliant cross functional team.” Read more in our interview, plus there is a detailed analysis of the category Matt operates it in our Soft Drinks feature where healthier drinking and rehydration are the big trends wholesalers need to be catering for.

We also speak to Fredrik Svensson, General Manager, British American Tobacco about the UK Vape market.

With the winter chill keeping people indoors, now is the peak season for the Big Night In, a wide-ranging and lucrative category that wholesalers and retailers should swot up on if they are to make the most of this golden opportunity.

In our final category, Beers, Lagers and Cider we learn about the latest innovation keeping alcohol sales buoyant in the face of a decline in drinking.

Growth isn’t an issue for two heavyweights in the Foodservice, as Blakemore adds a supply contract with SOHO Coffee Co to its books, while JJ Foodservice is urging anyone with a 20-30k sq ft warehouse in West London to give them a call as they set their sights on expansion.

Which goes to show that despite a challenging macro-climate, with trends aided by social media changing faster than ever, there will still be plenty of winners in our industry – if they stay ahead of the curve!

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