Creating a culinary experience

Founded almost 50 years ago, Wing Yip’s Chinese arches, superstores and business centres have become much loved, recognised landmarks in the communities it serves with authentic Oriental ingredients

Born in Dongguan County, Guangdong, China in 1937, Woon Wing Yip arrived in the UK in 1959 with little money, yet big ambitions. First opening a series of restaurants in the East Anglia region with partners in the 1960s, it was in 1970 that he and his brother Sammy Yap opened a specialist Chinese grocery in Digbeth, Birmingham, supplying more than 1000 genuine Chinese products to restaurants, takeaways and families in the surrounding area.

In the years that followed, sites also opened in Manchester, Cricklewood and Croydon, and Wing Yip has since become widely recognised as the UK’s leading Oriental grocer, employing approximately 400 employees, including managers, development chefs, marketeers, tech experts, and financial and retail teams. Meanwhile, in the case of its founder, Woon Wing Yip would not only go on to be recognised as the first Anglo-Chinese tycoon in the UK, but in 2010 he was awarded with an OBE for services to the Oriental food industry in the New Year Honours List.

To this day, Wing Yip remains a family business, sourcing and supplying authentic ingredients to UK restaurants, discerning chefs and food enthusiasts with two generations now at the helm. “With over 40 years’ experience in the Oriental food trade, we have developed an enviable network of Far Eastern suppliers and manufacturers, which enables us to source quality, innovative products for our customers,” explains Wing Yip Director, Ennevor Yap.

“Through our four sites and our online store, we provide more than 4500 ingredients that operators and consumers can rely on when it comes to creating authentic Oriental dishes,” Ennevor continues. “From the mainstream rice and noodles, to the more specialist ingredients such Oriental vegetables, fresh fish – including shellfish – and pastes and oils, Wing Yip provides easy access to the produce needed for either traditional or more-experimental Far Eastern dishes. For those looking for a quick serve option, we offer a wide variety of stir-in sauces to create a great tasting dish with minimum ingredients, whilst at the same time, foodservice buyers can visit our warehouse to purchase things in bulk.”

Major development
Historically, restaurants, takeaways and wholesalers have made up the vast majority of the company’s customer base, however, in more recent years – with an increase in consumer scratch-cooking being the key influencer – it is seeing more and more loyal consumers visiting its stores wanting to recreate their favourite dishes at home. “As the UK’s leading Oriental grocer, we aim to cater to everyone, from the restaurant trade to families doing the weekly shop,” Ennevor adds. “We do this by retaining a strong family business ethos and combining it with a professional touch. Meanwhile, our growth has been influenced by our ability to adapt to rapidly changing Pan-Asian food, culture and fashion interests.”

As a continually growing business, Wing Yip is committed to investing in all of its stores in order to enhance the experience of its customers and facilitate the expanding of its range of products. “At present, our Croydon and Manchester stores are undergoing a significant transformation in an effort to offer improved shopping facilities with light and airy décor, wider aisles and, of course, an even greater selection of Far Eastern goods,” Ennevor details.

The company can also be found carrying out a major development of its Birmingham business centre, with the 1.7-acre site of its original supermarket undergoing a facelift ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2020. By renovating space at the site, the company is making way for a more open landscaped space featuring a new parade of 11 multi-purpose retail units to provide opportunities for the local community and businesses. This space is due to be completed by the end of summer 2019. Wing Yip has also recently invested in a new retail park in Cardiff, which it is letting out to a handful of tenants. Businesses signed up already include DIY store Wickes and Metrobank, and there will also be a drive-thru unit, run by a food or drink operator.

Commenting in June 2019, Wing Yip Director, Brian Yip, stated the following: “Our Wing Yip Business Centre is an integral part of the Birmingham community, and is focused on providing a range of specialist services to the Chinese and non-Chinese communities alike. From Chinese and Oriental restaurants to bakers, healthcare and legal services, our sites are home to a number of local businesses and demand for our units continues to grow. Our renovation will create additional space, and will allow us to grow our commercial offering as we enter our 50th anniversary year.”

By no means a company that rests on its laurels, whilst Wing Yip has experienced great expansion over the last ten years, it continues to seek other potential sites to acquire and build fruitful, long-lasting partnerships with key organisations in the food market. “We have lots of reasons to be positive about what the future holds, and the re-development and expansion of our 57sites, as well as our business centre, will no doubt help us to grow further still,” Ennevor concludes.