The new National Living Wage could create multiple opportunities for prepared produce suppliers.
That is the view of William Jackson Food Group (WJFG) CEO Norman Soutar, who also told delegates at yesterday (5 November)’s Carrot Conference in Peterborough that he believes businesses across the food supply chain will need to change their labour strategies as a result of the government’s replacement for the minimum wage, which comes into effect in April 2016.
Soutar, though, was looking to accentuate the positives in regards to WJFG, which owns MyFresh, a leading supplier to the likes of Nando’s, Gregg’s, KFC, Bakkavor and Greencore.
He told delegates: “This new National Living Wage will see foodservice companies in a position where they need to bring in more prepared products. And for businesses like ours, we see that as a real opportunity.”
Soutar also stated his belief that the grocery retail market has changed “forever” as a result of the discounters’ entry.
He said: “Tales of BMWs and Audis in the car parks of Aldi and Lidl are a reality, and not just Daily Mail scaremongering. The limited assortment discounters, or LADs, have made a huge impact, and consumers find shopping in them simpler, quicker, and more satisfying.
"I wonder, though, if they will eventually follow the EasyJet lead. They started out as no thrills, but now they’ve moved up, and you can even book your seat, get an annual membership, and so on. Will the LADs have their eye on something similar?”
He added: “The landscape has changed forever, and if loyalty to shops isn’t dead, it’s certainly in intensive care, and I can’t see how it bounces back.”
Another WJFG subsidiary, the Aunt Bessie’s brand, is putting into action Soutar’s view that convenience “is front and centre when it comes to today’s time-poor consumer.”
As well as having its own freezer cabinets in Home Bargains stores, which have resulted in sales similar to those in supermarkets, Aunt Bessie’s is currently trialling its own home delivery service.
WJFG stablemate Abel & Cole has made its name in the home delivery field, and Soutar said it’s “not out of the question” that the organic produce specialist will extend its services to the rest of the UK at some point in the future.
Nevertheless, he cautioned: “Around 70 per cent of organic consumption is currently inside the M25, so that explains why we have not yet taken the service to Northumberland and the like.”