The right ingredients for success
Firm in its belief that the best dishes begin with the perfect ingredients, Wellocks delivers the best possible fruit, vegetables, dairy, poultry, meat and sundries to its customers throughout the UK
With an association with food beginning in 1946 when Eric Wellock operated a traditional greengrocer in Silsden, Yorkshire, Wellocks was established in 1961 by Eric’s son Richard as a supplier of fresh produce. Over the next four decades, the company grew steadily as a supplier of potatoes to local fish and chip shops and as a market stall owner selling fresh fruit and vegetables. Joining the firm officially in 1984, James Wellock, Richard’s son, was given the challenge of expanding the company’s remit through the supply of all types of fruit and vegetables to greengrocers and market stalls. “In the early days of the business we were very localised,” says James. “In the 1990s I was tasked with going to Manchester market to buy produce but you never knew where the product had come from and even if it would be there when you got to the market so I began questioning what exactly it was that I was buying and started my search for the perfect ingredient.
“During this time, the greengrocers side of the business was dying out due to supermarkets taking over, but I also noticed one of our customers had opened up a vegetable preparation plant that I could see was opening a gap in the market to restaurants. We bought out this customer and gained two offers to go into restaurants by delivering direct vegetables and prepped vegetable lines; back then this was fairly simple as it meant peeling carrots and potatoes,” says James.
Today the company’s pre-prep service includes trimming, peeling, slicing, chopping, dicing, cubing, grating and shredding produce, which is completed by a team of highly skilled individuals who take ingredients of optimal quality and give them the same level of care and precision that a chef would. To further ensure reputability and quality, the company regularly hires retired chefs with the goal of delivering perfect consistency to every customer. However, before pre-prep begins, the company’s development kitchen rigorously tests each newly sourced ingredient to ensure that each customer gets the exact results they need.
This new way of working meant the company was dealing with local chefs to not only establish routes but also deliver a great service, great product and the right price. Chefs were soon getting in touch to request Wellocks’ high-quality services and establish positive working relationships. “This led to us expanding more and developing roots across the UK as we continued to grow. In 2001 when my Dad retired there were 15 of us; there are now 460 of us, so there has been impressive growth for Wellocks over the last 16 years,” comments James.
As it continued to grow the company remained focused on providing the perfect ingredients, from the most exotic elements of a dish to everyday basics, searching the globe to find producers and farms that take pride in what they produce. Indeed, the company is proud that all suppliers have been specially selected, and Wellocks works with them directly to help them produce the best possible ingredients for its customers. Additionally, for ingredients that are even more extraordinary the company is growing its special branch collection; comprised of unique products such as More? Sourdough Toasting Loaf and White Truffle Oil as well as Pac Pomodori Pelati, the special branch collection delivers maximum flavour every single time. Many products are Protected Designation of Origin registered, which ensures that the produce complies with relevant recipes and processes.
With the quality and diversity of products continuing to grow, Wellocks made a strategic decision to move its headquarters from Trawden to Lancashire six years ago. Since then, the company has reached capacity of its warehouse and has invested in another 20,000 square feet facility to serve as its new fresh produce preparation centre; it also installed a second conveyor belt in line with the level of demand from customers throughout the UK and its strategic decision to establish logistical hubs in key areas of the country. “We have reinvested into the business to facilitate the expansion so we have the playing field that is second-to-none, which has really allowed us to deliver. In terms of expansion, this began when a chef asked us to deliver to Ascot from Nelson, Lancashire, then to Norfolk, Cambridge and London with seven or eight vans going to and from these places. We still take orders in Nelson, which is then sent to our hub in Aylesbury, 100 miles from all of the southern coasts, and send them on an Artic; they are then transhipped into smaller vehicles. From starting this hub five years ago with seven routes, we now have 30 routes going out of that hub,” highlights James.
“We then decided to expand on this winning formula into Scotland around four years ago and have built up a team and a hub that is just outside of Glasgow on the motorway network. We supply the whole of Scotland, again with produce coming out of Nelson, and have around 15 routes so far with our ingredients going to Michelin Star restaurants and five star hotels. We did the same again in Devon and have a distribution hub in Tewkesbury; our vans are delivering to customers at 8.30 am every day, and when you consider that orders are placed up to midnight, built at our Nelson warehouses and delivered to Devon by that time, this is quite an achievement,” he adds.
Inspiring the country
In line with this level of activity throughout the UK, James recently made the strategic decision to invest £800,000 in 20 new Mercedes Sprinter vans to improve delivery services and add new routes. Branded with the company’s distinctive logo, these vans bring the company’s fleet size to 126, all of which are supplied by Mercedes Benz.
Following these notable developments and immense growth over recent years, Wellocks was named one of the UK’s top 1000 fastest-growing and dynamic companies by the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) for 2017. “It was a big surprise to receive this award from an outside perspective and it is nice to know for myself and for my employees to know that we are inspiring the country,” says James.
Thinking about the future, James concludes: “We have implemented a lot of changes in the last six months, investing in a new IT system and developing our base. We will also invest in the building, which will cost a minimum of £600,000 and invest in the prep room, which will cost £500,000. The track record since 2001 has been minimum double digit but nearer 20 per cent year-on-year; at some stage this will slow down but for now it continues and this gives us confidence to keep investing.”