In the genes

For almost 40 years, Bowland Foods has been owned by the Wood family, with two generations today working to ensure its many customers receive a personal and efficient service all year round

For the Wood family, British beef, lamb and pork has been the source of their livelihood since 1979, when the company Bowland Foods was founded. Based on the outskirts of Preston in BF 139 bLancashire, this handson family wholesale meat business serves its customers with a complete range of cuts and carcasses, the majority of which is locally sourced. The running of the company is very much a family affair, with Jimmy Wood its Managing Director, wife Vikki the Company Secretary and son Harry who is following in his father’s footsteps. Michael Joy is Operations Manager and Peter Briggs Pork Manager. This, complete with a longstanding and loyal team, has ensured the success of the company.

“We came into this business with one key aim, and that was to give our customers what they want, when they want,” Jimmy begins. “To achieve this, we work tirelessly and it has helped to make Bowland Foods a successful company.” Said customers comprise individual butcher shops, clients across the food service industry and secondary wholesales, with products distributed from Scotland down to Dorset, and everywhere in between. These customers are served by the company’s fleet of temperature controlled vehicles.

“Providing great customer service is what we are all about, and together with our commitment towards providing a quality product every time we have built up a collection of long-standing customers that we have looked after for many years,” Vikki adds. “Our customers demand attention to detail from their suppliers, which we definitely provide, and we have found that if they have the confidence that they will receive what they want, when they want it, they have no problems staying loyal to a company like Bowland Foods. I honestly believe that if you speak to any of our customers they will fully endorse the fact that we have a strong work ethic and a dedication to doing things properly.”

Quality and welfare
The journey taken by the products supplied by Bowland Foods, from farm to fork as it were, begins at the procurement stage. Customers are increasingly keen to reduce food miles and the stress experienced by animals during transportation, and therefore the company looks to procure locally reared livestock wherever possible. Main livestock buyer Geoff Nutter is on the road everyday to ensure this supply ably assisted by Harry and other buyers keeping the supply chain going. It is Bowland Foods’ policy to purchase the majority of the livestock that it processes from local livestock auctions, however its buyers also regularly visit farms to assess stock for sale. “When it comes to the animals that we procure there are a number of key factors we focus on, most important of all being the quality and welfare of the animal itself and that its source is Red Tractor Assured,” Jimmy explains.

“With the farms that we source animals from, we go in looking to secure continued supply as we are always keen to build long-lasting relationships with reliable sources,” Vikki continues. “The local auctions, meanwhile, give our buyers the opportunity to go out and very carefully select the best possible animals to service our needs. Unlike the supermarkets, which typically look to source an ‘across the board’ product in the form of large groups of cattle that they pay a block price for, we require a healthy cross-section of grades, whether that be U Grade cattle that will go to our top-grade butchery customers or R Grade animals that will be used to supply our commercial, packed meat clientele, for example. That makes it all the more important that local auctions and markets are available to us so that we are able to pick and choose the highest quality livestock around.”

Following procurement, the next stage is the slaughterhouse, which is overseen by a subcontracted abattoir that the company’s staff visit routinely to confirm for themselves that welfare, hygiene and quality standards are maintained to the highest level. The carcasses are then delivered to Bowland Foods modern cutting plant, which was re-built in 2003 and boasts all of the required accreditation, including Red Tractor Assurance and BRC AA standards .BF 139 c

New acquisition
“Within our cutting plant, meat products go through various different quality controlled stages before heading out to the customers themselves,” Vikki details. “Sometimes meat will go out as a carcass, on the bone and in quarters to meet individual requirements , while other times we will cut the meat down into smaller parts as desired, for which we have our own in-house boning operation. From there we can cryovac and chill the meat, pack it into its own dated boxes, before distributing it via palletised, temperature controlled transport. From start to finish, we make sure that every action taken is done so the right way, and that is one of the reasons why we are still going strong today!”

The strength of the business over the years has also allowed it the opportunity to seek out acquisitions that have added to its capacity and capabilities. A recent example, which took place during the first half of 2018, was the purchase of a local pork business. By taking on this business’ operations and a new sales person the company has already seen benefits appearing in the form of an increase in turnover. “The possible acquisition of other businesses is something that we always consider as a means of growing ourselves,” Vikki states. “So long as a business fits in with what we do, and is like minded in how we operate, we stand ready to bring them on board.”

Family values
An additional, but equally interesting facet of the business is that the Woodfamily continues to pursue its farming interests. They do so through the ownership of its well-known Popes Simmentals, one of the UK’s top, awardwinning pedigree Simmental cattle herds that it runs across 400 acres of land, and Harry’s flock of pedigree Beltex, which supply some of the lamb for the business.

While his passion for his work is clearly undiminished, with Jimmy now in his 60’s his thoughts do sometimes turn to the succession plans of Bowland Foods. Thankfully these appear well in hand, with Harry taking on an evermore prominent role in the business and daughter Hannah now in her last year of studying business and marketing at Harper Adams University. This is also important because it will help to safeguard the future of the company’s greatest asset, its people.

“Many of our employees we have here have been with us for more than 20 or even 30 years,” Jimmy concludes. “They make up what we consider to be our extended family. We look after them, they look after us, and are integral to what we have achieved, and will continue to achieve, over the years!”