Smooth sailing


From recommendations on the latest products to ensuring a smooth process when it comes to purchases, we talk to our wholesale experts about why it’s pivotal to build a trustworthy relationship with clients.

The UK hospitality industry is mostly supplied by wholesalers – whether it’s from bigger businesses such as Matthew Clark or a specialised wholesaler that lends itself to more selective bars.

For hospitality operators, choosing a wholesaler as their supplier allows them to find their options all in one place, which translates in saving time and money per order – not to mention avoiding unnecessary carbon emissions in the spirit of sustainability.

Now, it is normal for on trade venues to pick one specific wholesaler or two to deal with over time, as this helps effective communication and gives them the opportunity to work in line with shared values and brand ethos. Wholesalers also have the benefit of providing an extra pair of eyes when assessing a bar or restaurant’s audience, usually identifying new trends and key market areas.

We have gathered a few experts to share insights about the world of wholesale, including a fresh perspective on consumer preferences expected in 2023 and ways in which wholesalers can market themselves to venue operators who are looking for their next partner.

Liam Belton, Master of Malt Trade Lead, opens the discussion: “Over the past year, we have really looked at who we are as a business and how we want to support the industry to grow. We are evolving who we work with, as we want to champion more sustainable suppliers to promote responsible farming and sustainable methods and production.

“We are also investing into media relationships that help drive important industry conversations, such as an upcoming panel on inclusivity in hospitality.”

Master of Malt Trade are a great example of a wholesaler who is passionate about what they do and the industry they work in. Like we mentioned earlier, sustainable practices are at the core of nearly every operation, and Liam gives us proof that it is a shared sentiment on all parts.

He continues, giving us a quick run-down of what he think we’ll see this year in the on trade: “Trends-wise, we have seen a real uptake and surge in popularity of flavoured rums, with trade sales growing 36% in Q4 22 vs the previous year.

“In the current economic climate, we will see a huge innovation and creativity push in the on trade, as bars need to create new and interesting serves to maintain margins and deliver the higher priced serves.”

Both these points are highlighted by Master of Malt Trade’s Smoked Chilli Project 173 Rum, which did as well as the more mainstream flavours – such as coffee and banana – between  August and December 2022.

“The on trade took just below 40% of this total volume, demonstrating that there is an appetite for these types of flavours so bars can create a totally unique, potentially savoury, serve,” explains Liam.

This and other data have determined the next step for the company in terms of marketing and directly working with venues. Master of Malt Trade are famous for working very much ‘on the ground’ with their partners, and they strive to meet clients’ needs and expectations in a way that ‘creates a working legacy to be taken forward with others’.

“We have really unique offerings for our venues and believe that the best consistent marketing you can do is having an unrivalled quality of service and support. Things like delivery within 24 hours, what we believe to be the most extensive product range in the UK through to rotating trade packs and bespoke dram packs to support customers in driving footfall through their doors year round, all make up our point of difference,” concludes Liam, outlining what makes Master of Malt a trustworthy spirit supplier.

We have also mentioned wholesalers who specialise in a certain category and can provide invaluable expertise when operators are looking to freshen up their shelves.

We have the pleasure to work with a few of these, like Bacchus Wines PLDC, a UK-based independent wine wholesaler. Offering a range of top-quality grapes, Bacchus Wines PLDC are a smaller firm, meaning they are more flexible and can quickly respond to customer requests – something that clients are automatically drawn to as they feel supported at any time of the day.

Co-Founder Trond Rornes tells us more: “We sell top-quality, award-winning wines at prices that hospitality businesses can appreciate. We have excellent relationships with family-run winemakers, including Château de Parenchère, and we just announced our UK-exclusive deal with Paul Lebrun Champagne. In addition, we handle the import of wine into the UK, solving any freight and trade agreement issues.”

For Bacchus Wines PLDC, it is essential that only wines they genuinely love are selected from winemakers who have a passion for viniculture, sustainability, and quality. What’s more, they want to work with venues that believe that provenance and the art of winemaking are equally important as the cost. The Bacchus Wines PLDC team aim to work long-term with their customers, which they achieve through a relationship built on trust.

When it comes to spreading awareness about their wine offering, Trond explains that the best way to this, in their opinion, is to do marketing via wine tasting events. He says: “We travel all over the UK to host wine tastings for decision makers and find that, even though we have a lot of knowledge (and great prices), once tasted, the wines virtually sell themselves.”

Lastly, Trond shares Bacchus Wines PLDC’s predictions for consumer preferences in 2023, highlighting focuses around sustainable products, wines without added sulphites, and Champagne – particularly less-mainstreams expressions that go head to head with the biggest brands in taste tests.

He concludes: “Our new Paul Lebrun Champagne ticks those boxes. A family-run Maison produces the Champagne with multi-generational winemaking expertise using 100% Chardonnay grapes. It is made in the Côte des Blancs in Cramant, one of the few villages classified as Grand Cru in Champagne.”

Pentland Wholesale – supplier of commercial refrigeration and food service – have a slightly different way to promote themselves to venue operators. Thanks to the tight connections with their distributors nationwide, the team at Pentland Wholesale are able to position their product specifically within their desired market and let it do most of the talking.

Marketing Manager Craig Green explains: “We make it our mission to only supply the best products so buyers know they can expect great quality when purchasing from Pentland. Aside from this, frequent editorials, event showcases and more all contribute to the success of the Blizzard brand.”

With 30 years’ experience in the field, the team have the unique perspective and insight on the market that allows their buyers to make informed decisions on what stock to hold. Thanks to growing, strong supply chains and their ability to hold large volumes of stock at any time, Pentland Wholesale are able to cater for any customer product needs instantaneously, often making them the first port of call for many businesses.

Tying back into the importance of building trustworthy relationship between buyer and supplier, Craig tells us what they try to do to help their clients and make sure they are the best fit for them.

He says: “Understanding the current circumstances for all parties is key when attempting to build any retail relationship, recent issues such as international uncertainty, COVID-19 and BREXIT have caused costs to rise but have also seen demand waver. Every party understanding why costs should/ shouldn’t rise is crucial and one that we have seen Blizzard perfectly navigate over the last 3-5 years.”

Working as a wholesaler comes down to valuable connections and actively collaborating with your customers to achieve the best outcome for each business. Ensuring what you believe in aligns with a client’s ethos is of utmost importance to establish a successful partnership. Once the relationship is cemented, there will be only a few kinks to work out and, before you know it, it will be smooth sailing!

We hope we have been exhaustive enough on the topic but if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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