Unsurpassable service

After another award-winning year in 2019, Bidfood, one of the UK’s leading suppliers for a large proportion of Britain’s caterers, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, care homes and pubs, is well-positioned to tackle the challenges of a new decade

When invited to discuss Bidfood’s performance over the last 12 months, Group Sales and Marketing Director, Andy Kemp describes 2019, rather modestly, as ‘a year of positive change’. “We saw ourselves accelerating in the digital world, developing a more strategic approach to both our social media platforms and our website,” he says. “We’ve worked hard to incorporate digital elements into all our campaign work and have taken some really positive strides so far.”

A drive towards modernisation was not the only thing keeping Bidfood busy in 2019. It was a year in which the company won 38 awards across a range of categories, including a hat trick of FWD Gold Medals for Wholesaler Service to Caterers, Star Driver and Telesales Star.

Understandably, Andy was thrilled that Bidfood employees were being singled out for recognition by the wider industry. “Our drivers and telesales employees are the face of our business and we’re so proud of how hard they work,” he declares. “Hearing the heart-warming stories of how they go above and beyond to best support our customers and deliver service excellence is truly inspiring.”

It seems only fitting that a glittering year of awards success for Bidfood was capped off by the company’s long-serving Group Sales and Marketing Director receiving a significant accolade of his own. In June 2019, Andy was awarded an MBE in recognition of his outstanding services to the foodservice and hospitality industry.

“I was incredibly humbled to receive the honour,” Andy states. “I have to thank all of my industry colleagues who have supported me and helped make this possible. It has been a real pleasure to work alongside so many influential and wonderful people throughout my career.”

Healthy eating focus
Over the last 40 years, Andy has channelled his enthusiasm, energy, and passion into a variety of notable causes related to the food industry. He currently sits on an All-party Government Committee looking specifically at ensuring children are well fed, and has fought long and hard to bring awareness to school nutrition standards, the importance of Universal Infant Free School Meals, and the devastating impact of holiday hunger, which leaves 1.5 million children in England underfed during the school holidays. Andy’s knowledge and ideas have contributed significantly to Bidfood’s focus on healthy eating and child nutrition.

“Clean, healthy eating has always been a central thought for us,” Andy asserts. “It’s a trend that is being heavily led by our Government and health conscious consumers, who rightly have an expectation that their supplier is both up-to-date and knowledgeable on the products they are serving and recommending.

“We continuously raise awareness of food that is good for you to our sales people and customers, and in 2019, we completed our second phase of sugar reformulation, reducing sugar from a number of own-brand products as part of Public Health England’s sugar reduction programme. We were pleased to have achieved an average of 25 per cent sugar reduction across some of our bestselling cakes and 20 per cent across pie fillings. We continue to work on reformulating our products to reduce unnecessary sugar, where possible.

“Further to this, we work at places such as the University of West London, where we review the medical effects of food,” Andy adds. “It forces us to become consciously aware of highlighting the dangers of growth hormones and antibiotics within the food chain.”

Despite all the prizes and progress, 2019 was not a year without its difficulties for Bidfood. As one news story dominated the headlines all year long, we asked Andy how the company dealt with Brexit.

“I think it’s fair to say we can’t ignore the ‘B’ word!” he jokes. “Brexit was a huge part of 2019 and we worked very hard to support our customers and ensure robust supply arrangements during a period of uncertainty. We challenged ourselves to be bold in our approach and appeared on a number of broadcast news programmes, discussing our plans and instilling trust in our customers, suppliers and our people, reassuring them that we were working hard to mitigate risk. Overall, we had a fantastic, but challenging year.”

Sustainability drive
With Brexit uncertainty behind it, Bidfood entered 2020 looking to deliver an explosion of flavour to the UK food scene, driven by advances in experimental dining, global flavours and sustainability. The year had barely begun before the company was picking up its first awards of the new decade, as in February, at the Scottish Wholesaler Achievers Awards, Bidfood Scotland was victorious in the Best Delivered Operation, Best Marketing Initiative, and Great Place to Work categories.

“Bidfood Scotland has been working exceptionally hard on a number of initiatives lately, including championing local sourcing and encouraging customers to buy local,” Andy explains. “It was great to see their hard work recognised at the SWA Awards and it was particularly pleasing to be recognised for our sustainability campaign ‘Source, Serve, Sustain’. The awards reflect the continued emphasis the team is putting on service excellence and working hard to continue to be the wholesaler of choice in Scotland.”

Unfortunately for Bidfood, this strong start to the year has since been overshadowed by the global crisis surrounding Covid-19. Though Andy acknowledges the difficulty of the challenge ahead, the company has already taken swift, positive action in response to the pandemic, working with competitors to provide a vital service to people in need. “Our teams have been working around the clock to support our customers, suppliers and employees and we’re proud that our business is now dedicated to delivering essential food to those who need it most,” Andy notes.

“In response to Covid-19, we have transformed our business model overnight to now offer our services to the general public, launching both click and collect and home delivery out of a number of our depots. We are also proud to have teamed up with Brakes to deliver food packages to some of the most vulnerable in society across England, Scotland and Wales. I think it’s fair to say that 2020 so far has been full of unpredictability, but also packed full of collaboration, support and community.”

Inspiring the future
Bidfood has always aimed to be a forward thinking company with a strong awareness of its corporate and social responsibility to the communities it serves. Before offering to help in the current crisis, the company had been slowly unveiling a campaign supporting universities in their fight against growing cases of student mental health. √Self – as the campaign is known – offers insight into student wellbeing statistics, charity recommendations, advice on how community spaces can be laid out on campus, and commentary from expert nutritional therapist, Christine Bailey, with matching Bidfood recipes. After receiving tremendous feedback from a number of universities, the campaign is due to roll out with customer support days across the UK when students are invited to return to their studies.

Looking further ahead, Bidfood remains deeply aware of the vital role that young people will play in maintaining the company’s legacy. Andy hopes that food and hospitality organisations will continue to find ways to inspire and attract new staff, helping to future-proof an industry that provides a service beloved by millions of people across the country.

“It’s hugely important for our industry that we support the younger generations and advertise hospitality as a great industry to work in,” Andy says. “At Bidfood we have a high level of millennial and Gen Z staff within our workforce and we’re starting to see these generations rising through our management teams.

“Within hospitality, there are many organisations that have worked for years in creating awareness of our industry as being a great place to work. Charitable bodies, such as Springboard, have launched exciting programmes like Future Chef, aimed at young people between the ages of 12 to 16, inspiring them from an early age. Other initiatives, such as the Michael Caines Academy and the Gold Service Award chaired by Alastair Storey, which focuses on front of house, are proof that the majority of our industry is acutely aware of the skills gap and, particularly post-Brexit, of our needs for employment in this area.”