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Food company creates 16 new jobs after sizzling summer with 385 per cent increase in burger sales

15 September 2020

A food distribution company has created 16 jobs after achieving record sales over the summer with demand for burgers going through the roof.

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Harlech Food Service, based in Criccieth and Chester, say easier online purchasing, fixed pricing with competitive prices on key lines and the UK Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme all played a part in the increase.

Overall, turnover by the end of August was 4.7 per cent higher than last year while there was a meaty 385 per cent growth in demand for burgers with 130,000 of them being sold.

At the same time there was a dramatic increase in online ordering via the company’s website and app – up from 15 per cent to 44 per cent of the overall total.

According to Harlech Foodservice, customers who order digitally spend £74 more on average than when they buy by calling the telesales team.

The good news was announced by new managing director David Cattrall who is aiming to add another £20 million to the turnover over the next five years.

The reversal of fortune is dramatic after the company suffered a massive drop in business earlier this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Cattrall, who is approaching his first 100 days in charge, said: “By the end of the school holidays we saw sales exceeding last year by 4.7 per cent.

“We knew it would be a difficult time for our customers to predict sales and what they need to order and most would incur additional costs ensuring they complied with social distancing guidelines, so we asked ourselves how we could help our customers.

“Whilst many other suppliers chose to reduce services to cut their own costs we decided to support our customers through this unpredictable period by improving our service.

“We introduced fixed and transparent pricing – which is unusual in our sector - so customers could browse our entire range without having to contact their sales rep.

“Something else that has gone down well was out decision to reduce the prices on key lines for our customers, for example 5kg of 7-8oz chicken fillets are now just £19.99.

“We also increased the delivery service to all our customers, offering every day Monday to Saturday, as well as introducing later order times so all customers can now order up to 10pm via our website and app. This allows chefs to place orders after evening service.

“Our customers really bought into our digital platforms - we saw a massive increase from just 15 per cent of customers buying via web or app pre- Covid to 44 per cent by the end August.

“Customers really like our later cut off time with half of all orders placed between 8pm and 10pm - a service we didn’t offer pre-Covid. It’s completely changed how we work.”

Head of sales Chris Gregson said: “We have been blown away by the customer transition to our web and app. Chefs keep telling me how much easier it is to order after service when they know what they need, full of confidence they will receive their Harlech delivery the following day.

“What has surprised us is how much more customers are ordering digitally. They spent on average £74 more using our web or app compared to telesales. Our customers tell us they find it easier to browse our range and compare prices.

“We have seen the biggest take up in our Bwydlyn butchery and had to recruit butchers to cope with demand. For example our popular 6oz Gourmet Steak burger is made fresh by our butchers each day – in August our butchers made a record breaking 130,000 fresh burgers. That really is some going.”

Mr Cattrall added: “Just a few weeks ago we thought we might have to consider warehouse redundancies.

“However, we have now had to recruit additional drivers, warehouse operatives and butchers to cope with demand - in all we have employed an additional 16 people on permanent, full time contracts in our Criccieth and Chester distribution centres. “Whilst sales will slow with Eat Out To Help Out ending, we expect sales to continue above last year.”

Nick Burns, Food Development Manager for Robinsons Brewery, is delighted with the improved service and better pricing structure.

He said: “It has been an extremely difficult and challenging time for hospitality with many suppliers struggling to turn back on foodservice manufacturing to cope with the Eat Out to Help Out demand in August.

“Harlech Foodservice deliver to all our managed estate across North Wales & NW England and have been excellent. They quickly put in place systems and processes ensuring that we received good availability so that we could look after our own customers. We value the care and adaptability of a regional business like Harlech.”

How doing “simple” things right will lead to exciting future for food distribution firm

14 August 2020

A food industry big hitter who started out as a Saturday boy at Iceland Frozen Foods has taken the helm at another iconic North Wales company

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David Cattrall, 49, a former pupil of Ysgol Friars, in Bangor, is already looking beyond the coronavirus crisis after being appointed managing director at distribution company Harlech Foodservice which has its HQ in Criccieth, and a base in Chester.

He has high hopes for growth and is aiming to add another £20 million to the turnover over the next five years.

The secret, he says, will be concentrating on what customers want with fixed, transparent and competitive pricing on a core range of products, making it simpler to search and order online and strengthening the “exceptional customer service” already provided by the team.

After being brought up in Liverpool and North Wales, he rejected the idea of going to university in favour of a career in retail.

He was offered a trainee manager’s job at Flintshire-based Iceland after working weekends for them and earning extra pocket money while in school.

It was the first rung on the corporate ladder which saw a meteoric rise, including roles with Marks and Spencer and Booker Wholesale with whom he ended up as sales director of their catering division where turnover was measured in billions.

Mr Cattrall, who lives in Beddgelert, has known the Foskett family who own Harlech Foodservice for a number of years and more recently did some consultancy work for them.

Then in January of this year he was appointed as a non-executive director with a view to him becoming MD at the end of 2020 but Covid-19 has accelerated the process.

As a company whose business revolves around the hospitality industry, the pandemic saw a massive drop in orders – something that has resulted in the painful decision to consult over the expected loss of 16 jobs.

The challenge now, according to Mr Cattrall, is to restructure the business so that it is well placed to prosper in the post-pandemic world, with the North West and Midlands being targeted as growth areas.

He said: “Our aim is to change the focus of the business to allow us to grow. The current crisis is forcing us to adapt and we are aiming to make changes with the future in mind.

“One important thing we are introducing is transparent, fixed pricing for our all customers, rather than the norm in the industry of inflated list prices that require negotiating line by line. For example, at Harlech Foodservice 5kg of chicken fillets is now £19.99 for every customer.

“We want to make it much easier for people to buy from us so we’ll move to a modern website and app to enable customers to search more easily, just like Amazon, so you can compare range, price and product information and make an instant decision.

“Also, our customers work at very different hours. So again, if they want to place an order after service or build up a basket during the day, it’s easy to do that in the digital world.

“We’re extending our order window until 10pm for next day delivery when ordering via digital means. However, we still offer a telesales service for those customers that prefer the personal touch.

“We’re very strong in North Wales and we want to continue to expand further and faster in the North West of England and the Midlands. There is also scope to grow our business in the education and healthcare sectors.

“At the moment we’re a £33 million pound business and we hope to grow to at least £50 million over the next five years.

“My job is to make Harlech simpler so that we do the important things well – sourcing at a good price so we can provide our customers with competitive prices on their core range of products.

“In the short term, we’re trying to be optimistic around what happens to the business. We have seen some foodservice companies raise prices just when the hospitality sector needs help and support. We have done the opposite and invested in staples like oil, chicken, milk and chips.”

Director Andrew Foskett, who was previously joint managing director with brother Jonathan, said: “We’re delighted to have been able to appoint David to take Harlech Foodservice to the next level.

“Current circumstances have dictated that he has taken the reins sooner than we originally envisaged but David is the right person to help us navigate this difficult period and lay the foundations for the future.

“He has a hugely successful track record in the food industry and his vast experience and drive will help us grow, develop and prosper as a business.”

Company statement

25 June 2020

No individual, community or business has escaped the battles faced throughout the Covid-19 crisis. It has had an overwhelming impact on everyone, including the foodservice and hospitality sectors. With the closure of most food and leisure sites, at a time when the industry should have been heading into its peak season, these closures resulted in a significant overnight drop in sales.

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We utilised the generous furlough scheme for a number of employees, operating with only skeleton staff to manage the business’ daily needs. With no clear road map offered by the Welsh Assembly on the planned re-opening of hospitality, the business has been under severe stress.

In order to secure both short and long-term future success, we have needed to review our entire business operating procedures and proposed a number of changes. We do understand that these proposed changes will have a significant impact on our employees and we aim to keep any disruption to a minimum.

Regrettably, we have entered into a period of consultation with our employees which will unfortunately result in redundancies, expected in the region of 15 job losses across the business.

We expect a lengthy and uncertain recovery period over the next 12 months, however we remain confident about the future of Harlech Foodservice continuing to provide a great range of products at competitive prices whilst continuing to deliver excellent customer service; we have strong cash flow and will weather the storm.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our staff and customers for their cooperation, loyalty and hard work over these difficult times.

Celtic Blend

Coronavirus statement

18 March 2020

The board have reviewed the current coronavirus situation and the impact on its staff, customers and general business
One of our main priorities is to safeguard staff jobs. After consultation with our employees, reduced working hours have been agreed and implemented across the board.

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We are also trying to keep the impact on our customers to a minimum. Normal customers credit facilities and the £60 minimum order spend remain unaffected.

We have taken the decision to reduce customers delivery schedule down to a 3 day week until the situation improves. Most customers order 3 or fewer times a week so we hope for minimal disruption. Our team will inform you of new delivery days by end of week.

We will continue to accept orders via the usual channels i.e. App, website and telephone. To Register for online ordering and log-in details please email [email protected] or speak to your telesales.

We are working hard to maintain service level, however, as I’m sure you can appreciate, we will inevitably experience supplier short deliveries and may need to offer substitutes.

If you wish to discuss any of the above points in more detail, then please get in touch with your usual Telesales or Account Manager

We will continue to adopt best practices throughout the business and follow advice from the relevant authorities and monitor the ongoing situation closely.

We wish all our customers well over this difficult, unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in and hope this is only a short-term problem.

Best wishes
Jonathan, Andrew and Laura Foskett

Record breaking deals of almost £500,000 secured at
two-day trade expo led by growing food distribution firm

6 March 2020

RECORD breaking deals of almost £500,000 were secured at a high-profile two-day trade expo led by a growing food distribution firm.

Pictured, from left to right, are Andrew, Laura and Jonathan Foskett of Harlech Foodservice.

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The Harlech Foodservice Food and Drink Expo 2020, now in its 42nd year, welcomed almost 2,000 visitors to the event in Venue Cymru, Llandudno which saw around 165 UK-wide suppliers showcase their produce.

Sales generated by the event were up by more than 30 per cent from close to £350,000 in 2019 to almost £460,000 in 2020. There were an additional 30 new businesses showcasing their produce this year.

The expo aims to allow Harlech Foodservice suppliers to talk directly to the customer, giving them a chance to tell the story behind their product and offer free taster to representatives from the leisure, education and health industries across Britain.

Andrew Foskett is Joint Managing Director of Harlech Foodservice which has its headquarters in in Llanystumdwy, near Criccieth, Gwynedd. The firm, which has a satellite base in Chester, employs around 200 people, and was founded by his mother and father, Colin and Gill.

Andrew, who runs the firm with his brother Jonathan and sister Laura, said: “The event just keeps on getting bigger and bigger every year and we had people queuing up outside before the doors opened.

“Visitors were just so keen to get in because there is a lot to see and some great deals to be had.

“There are many benefits to both our customers and our suppliers. The customers are able to come and see, taste and feel the products for themselves and there’s no substitute for that.

“They have a chance to talk to the supplier and find out more about the story behind the particular product, which can be very important, and find out how best it can be used.

“It helps them to find out the latest food trends and to stay on top of the changing patterns in the industry. We have suppliers here specialising in vegan produce, allergen free products, and other things which our customers need to be aware of and thinking about all the time if they want to stay on top of their game.

“It’s a really important event for all concerned and we are proud to be at the fore of driving it forward.”

Global giants such as Heinz and Unilever were present at the event along with a whole host of varying size businesses including Seabrook crisps, Fentimans and Deli France.

At the heart of the event is Welsh Street, created by Harlech Foodservice to champion the wealth of quality food being produced across the country and particularly in the North Wales region.

As part of this, Harlech Foodservice had its new range of Brongain Farm Welsh beef products which have just secured European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.

It is a new partnership struck up with the Pickstock family and their 680-acre farm, in Llanfechain, Powys, which sees Harlech Foodservice selling top quality steaks, roasting joints, diced beef and mince under the Brongain Farm brand.

Laura Jones, Marketing Manager for Edwards of Conwy, was manning a stall on Welsh Street, giving out free tasters for the butchery firm which is famous for its top quality sausages, burgers and other meat products.

Founded by Master Butcher, Ieuan Edwards, who was one of three sons born on a family farm in Llanrwst, the company has gone from a one-shop operation on Conwy high street to a thriving meat production business supplying major supermarkets, wholesale and foodservice firms. It has always stood steadfastly by its belief of supplying the best quality product which customers will come back for ‘again and again’, no matter how large the food production operation.

Laura said: “The expo is great because it gives us the face to face contact to interact with new and existing customers and to connect with them in a way which is just not possible through a catalogue.

“It gives us a chance to understand better what they need, ensuring we have the right products to match and we simply couldn’t do this without the forum of an event like this.

“The quality of our products is king for us and the event allows us to show people this. It’s also a chance for us to tell the story behind the business which is very important to people these days.

“It’s great and so busy which gives us a chance to reach a lot of people in a relatively short space of time.”

The Welsh Government were also in attendance on Welsh Street represented jointly by Food & Drink Wales and Visit Wales.

Among the thousands of visitors attending the event were Michelle Casmore and Melissa Williams of Y Pantri café in Caernarfon.

Michelle, Manager of Y Pantri, said: “We bake a lot of things ourselves and this event is really useful for coming and getting inspiration and fresh ideas.

“We buy from Harlech Foodservice and like to keep things as local as possible so the event is great for coming and seeing the products, trying them, seeing which might work best for us.”

Her colleague and assistant manager, Melissa, added: “When we come across a good product locally, such as the Dragon cheese, then we will always use that in our own baking and let our customers know that we do.”

Melissa added that discussing allergy awareness with the expo producers had also been very helpful.

She said: “It is about being able to find out which products are suitable for everybody and speaking to the producers themselves to understand how best to use them and recommend them to our own customers.”

Llyr Williams

LLYR TACKLES SNOWDON SUMMIT ONCE A WEEK FOR A YEAR
IN AID OF CHILDREN’S CHARITY

February 2020

A BUTCHER with a big appetite for the great outdoors is raising money for vulnerable children by walking to the top of Snowdon every week for the entire year.

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That means keen walker Llyr Williams, who works for growing food distribution firm Harlech Foodservice, will have climbed the equivalent of Everest five times, trekked more than 400 miles and scaled more than 150,000 feet when he successfully completes his gruelling 52-week challenge in aid of Action for Children.

The 32-year-old will be heading to the summit come rain or shine, or even ice and snow, with the aim of beating his current personal best time of one hour and 27 minutes tackling the strenuous Rhy Ddu Path.

Llyr, who lives in Llannor near Pwllheli and is a former student of Ysgol Y Moelwyn in Blaenau Ffestiniog, has worked as a butcher at Harlech Foodservice which has its headquarters on Parc Bwyd, Llanystumdwy,near Criccieth, for more than two years.

The company, which employs around 200 people and has a satellite base in Chester, has named Action for Children as its chosen charity during 2020. It’s a UK-wide charity that protects and supports vulnerable children and young people by providing practical and emotional care.

Llyr said: "I go walking every week anyway and having just achieved my personal best time walking up Snowdon, I thought there must be a way of doing this for charity and making it a proper challenge.

"My personal best is 87 minutes to the summit. There are four or five paths you can take but I prefer the Rhy Ddu Path as I think it's more rewarding and challenging than the others, and the views are stunning.

"I usually walk up to the summit of Snowdon six or seven times a year so to do it every week will be challenging. The changing weather will obviously make things difficult.

"I intend to do the Rhy Ddu Path for them all but it depends on the weather. It's just the snow and ice that would require me changing the path for safety reasons. I'd go through Llanberis as it has a wider track.

"I've only ever climbed Snowdon once at peak time in the summer. Since then I've always done early morning walks before sunrise which is what I'll do for the challenge.

"Not only is it less hot, it's also less busy and you get to see the sunrise which is spectacular. It's like the Lion King - honestly that's the best way of describing it! The changing colours on the mountains and surroundings are just incredible."

Llyr, who has a two year old son called Ianto, says the biggest reward from completing the challenge will be knowing that his efforts will go towards helping children that need it the most.

Last year, Action for Children helped more than 387,000 children and families across the UK - that could be protecting them from neglect or abuse, or supporting those who are homeless.

Nikki Booth, Action for Children’s North Wales Community Fundraiser, said: ‘What Llyr is doing is incredible and unique.

“Going up Snowdon once is no mean feat but every week for a year is amazing and some of the photos I’ve seen already have been beautiful.

“It was wonderful to be chosen by Harlech Foodservice in the first place but Llyr’s challenge is really setting the tone for a brilliant year’s fundraising with a team of five also already signed up for a 10K race in Anglesey in the Spring.

“This is all to help the children, young people and their families who need it most in our communities and Action for Children is really grateful for all Harlech’s staff endeavours.”

Llyr added: "The support I've had from my colleagues at Harlech Foodservice has been brilliant especially considering I only mentioned the idea of the challenge two weeks before Christmas.

"I've had one lad in my team come out on the first walk with me. It was his first time doing it and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Hopefully I'll get a few more involved in it over the course of the year.

"If you can go up in just under three hours you're doing well. I'll be aiming to try and beat my personal best at some point, it would be nice to do that, but at the end of the day I'll be achieving something anyway just by going up every week.

"I'm using my hobby to raise money for charity. Walking is my exercise, I'm not a sports fan. This is what I've enjoyed doing since I can remember.

"As a dad myself it's really rewarding to support a children's charity such as Action For Children. It doesn't matter what you do, just a small thing will make a massive difference.

"Sadly not every child's upbringing is brilliant so it's nice to support the charity and know it could be helping make a child's life more comfortable."

To support Llyr and donate to Action For Children via Harlech Foodservice, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/harlech-foo...

To find out more about Action For Children, go to www.actionforchildren.org.uk

Are you compliant

Nutritional information on over 20,000 foodservice product lines. Click image to view video

While the new legislation aims to help consumers and the general public gain a better understanding of the content of the food that they eat; we understand that it is a challenge for businesses throughout the catering and foodservice industry to meet the requirements. Erudus provides caterers with comprehensive nutritional breakdowns, dietary advice and allergen information on over 20,000 products that caterers are purchasing through one data source. It aims to make it easier for caterers to access the information they will need to provide to their customers. Great news for Harlech customers; we are able to offer you this data source completely FREE of charge, email [email protected] for more information and get you started.

Green kids plant trees at Harlech HQ

Green-fingered schoolchildren help food distribution firm plant more than 500 trees

A GREEN-FINGERED group of schoolchildren have helped a growing food distribution firm plant more than 500 trees as part of an ongoing commitment to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

Harlech Foodservice, which has its headquarters on Parc Bwyd, Llanystumdwy, near Criccieth, enlisted the skills of 10 youngsters, aged between seven and 11 from nearby Ysgol Llanystumdwy to help with the green project to transform a narrow piece of waste ground on the edge of its main site.

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The growing firm, which employs around 200 people and has a satellite base in Chester, ordered in more than 500 trees and shrubs, which included a variety of species such as hazel, hawthorn, apple, hazelnut, rowan, dogwood, dog rose, blackthorn and common crab apple.

Gill Blease, Harlech Foodservice Marketing Manager, was one of those leading the project and joined in the morning’s planting activities.

She said: “We are one of the region’s biggest employers and take our green responsibilities very seriously and so we have been working hard for some time now to look at ways of reducing our carbon footprint.

“This has included installing solar panels on the roof of the main offices here and replacing all our rep’s company cars with hybrid models.

“The tree planting is part of our ongoing commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and the impact we are having on the environment around us but it has other useful benefits too.

“It is great for the team here, for both mental and physical wellbeing. Any staff member was welcome to come down and help with the tree planting and make the most of getting out of the office and into the fresh air for the morning.

“It is also transforming what is currently a piece of waste land into something which is much more visually appealing, attracting wildlife and creating spaces for our staff to go and enjoy during their breaks from work.”

Gill’s colleague Crofton Davey, HR Manager for Harlech Foodservice, said the tree planting project was also great for having the opportunity to strengthen their links with the local primary school and wider community.

Crofton, whose wife Cathryn is headteacher of Ysgol Llanystumdwy, said: “We all live and work together in this beautiful region and so it makes sense for us to look at ways of engaging with the local community and joining forces together to look after it.

“It’s been lovely to team up with the children, who are literally down the road from us, and work on this project together. We are supporting them by providing the chance to take part in a project outside of school and they are helping us by coming and planting the trees and making the whole thing a lot of fun.”

One of those enjoying making the most of the tree planting project was 10-year-old Ela Bentley who is in year six at Ysgol Llanystumdwy.

Ela, who is a member of the school gardening club, said: “I have really enjoyed coming here today to help with the planting because it is a chance to get outside and do something fun.

“I really like gardening at school and now I am getting to use the things I have learned there to help plant the trees here.

“I think it will look a lot prettier once the trees and plants have grown and I am looking forward to coming back and seeing what it looks like. Hopefully it will be a better place for wildlife to come too.”

Cathryn Davey, Headteacher of Ysgol Llanystumdwy, said the planting with Harlech Foodservice had been a great opportunity for the children.

She added: “This fits in so well with a lot of things we are trying to encourage the children to think about and enjoy – getting outside more, helping others in the community and being aware of our environmental impact and how we might improve this.

“What’s also nice is that we will be able to come back and see how the trees and shrubs they have worked hard to plant this morning have grown and improved the area.

“It’s been a lovely project for us all to be involved in and we are thankful to Harlech Foodservice for inviting us along.”

Harlech secure exclusive partnership with Brongain Farm

Growing food company beefs up range

A growing food distribution company is championing Welsh beef with the launch of a new range of products that have just secured protected European status.

Harlech Foodservice, which has its headquarters in Llanystumdwy, near Criccieth in Gwynedd, and a satellite base in Chester, has sealed a deal to sell “top quality, succulent” steaks, roasting joints, diced beef and minced beef under the Brongain Farm brand.

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The 680-acre Brongain Farm, in Llanfechain in Powys, is owned by the Pickstock family who have recently completed all the necessary Welsh Government audits to qualify for European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) accreditation for their Welsh beef.

PGI status covers regional and traditional foods whose origins can be guaranteed.

Securing the status European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) will give the Brongain Farm brand greater prominence and provides consumers with greater confidence about its provenance.

As a result, Pickstocks are aiming to increase the size of their Aberdeen Angus herd from 800 to 1,000 cattle.

As demand grows, Brongain Farm will be buying livestock from other approved farms who meet their “high environmental, sustainability and welfare standards”.

Gareth Evans, National Account Manager of the beef processing parent company, Pickstock Telford, said: “Pickstock and Harlech Foodservice are leading the way to help support the Welsh beef industry.

“Brongain Farm will be the flagship brand with Harlech Foodservice going forward.

“Pickstock Telford has recently achieved its Welsh PGI status and looks forward to growing the partnership with Harlech by supplying top quality prime Welsh beef.

“We have an integrated supply chain, controlled all the way from the farm to when it arrives with the customer, essentially all the way from field to fork.