The wholesale industry has never been afraid of change. Right from its earliest days, doom-mongers have been predicting its demise and yet the industry has proved remarkably resilient.

It has always adapted, evolving from the days of delivered wholesale to cash & carries and then back in the opposite direction.

Over the last 18 months, the industry has had to face Covid, which has had different consequences depending on what side of wholesaling an operator trades on.

Wholesalers on the retail side have enjoyed a period of sustained growth as consumers have stayed in and shopped locally.

For those on the foodservice side, it has been a struggle as restaurants, cafes and takeaways have closed.

Besides lockdowns and staff shortages, wholesalers have faced inflation, fluctuating demand, product supply challenges and fuel and CO2 shortages.

The industry also can’t help notice the rise of Amazon. The Californian tech giant has extended its tentacles into many areas of our lives and is now opening its own grocery stores.

Brexit has impacted the driver shortage, but beyond this the effects of Britain’s withdrawl from the European Union may not be felt for some years to come.

None of this is intended to spread doom and gloom, but merely to point out that there have always challenges to the industry and wholesalers have always risen to those challenges.

As they look forward to a new year, wholesalers will be embracing change. Some will be looking to expand their e-commerce business, as their customers have got used to the convenience of buying online. Many will be investing in technology, such as inventory management software to help improve efficiency.

Product categories are also changing. With the government setting a target for England to be smoke free by 2030 and an estimated one million people in the UK quitting smoking since the start of Covid, the vaping category is set to expand.

From October 2022, the new HFSS legislation will mean products high in fat, salt and sugar such as confectionery or crisps will not be allowed to be promoted in key locations such as checkouts, store entrances and aisle ends.

This is likely to be to the benefit of healthier food and drinks which are set to grow.

With all this in mind, Wholesale Manager asked some of they key players in the industry what they think will be the biggest emerging trends in the year ahead and how can wholesalers best prepare for 2022.

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