AG Barr has repeatedly won the Achievers ‘Best Overall Service’ award. Ian Johnstone talks about the supplier’s success and outlines his strategy for the wholesale industry this year.
To win the Scottish Wholesale Achievers award of Best Overall Service once is a huge achievement but to win it seven times in the past 10 years is truly remarkable. This is because it involves Scotland’s wholesalers firstly nominating their top suppliers and then voting each month over a four-month period for the service provided by the shortlisted companies.
The suppliers are scored on deliveries (including admin support), wholesaler support and channel/customer support. To be given excellent scores month after month, year after year, means there must be a consistently high level of service. This year, AG Barr won with a score of 44.77 out of 50 – well ahead of any other supplier (Heineken was second with 41.33).
“To win by such a big margin this year makes me think we are definitely doing something right and we have to make sure we continue to do that,” comments Ian Johnstone, AG Barr’s Scotland impulse sales controller.
“When our customers tell us that we are doing the right thing, or something better than other suppliers, it fills me with pride and shows that our customers appreciate what we are doing for them.”
Johnstone attributes the company’s success to the right mix of customer relationships, relevance in terms of brands, and service. He explains: “At AG Barr, we have built up strong relationships over many years, and we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of those relationships. They are backed up with relevance – we have strong brands that are important to wholesalers, their customers and the consumer. Then we provide a really good service – our people are going through the wholesalers’ doors on a regular basis and we ensure that deliveries are on time and not short, for example.
“Other suppliers do individual parts well but we seem to have the right mix, which I why I think we are on to a winner.”
AG Barr has a team of five people serving Scotland’s wholesale industry full-time plus another person part-time. Johnstone has recently restructured this team, selecting regional business development manager Craig Barr to be a foodservice specialist.
Johnstone explains: “We listened to the Scottish Wholesale Association saying how important foodservice has become so we have put all our foodservice wholesale customers into one portfolio and we are getting Craig quickly up to speed to become an expert in foodservice. As part of this, he is being mentored by SWA president Julie Dunn.”
Another development in AG Barr’s strategy is an objective to drive value over volume. “Wholesalers and their customers need to get a little bit more for their money,” comments Johnstone. “The prices of our brands have been stuck for a long time and they need to start moving north, so we want to help drive that. We believe that everybody can start making a little more margin, but we are also ensuring that our packs for the wholesale channel are in line with the discounters and supermarkets. So we are trying our best to keep the wholesale industry competitive while moving the pricing up a bit.”
AG Barr is launching a new campaign for Irn-Bru in April. This follows reformulation of the drink last year and, although the details are currently under wraps, the initiative will emphasise that Irn-Bru is still the No.1 soft drinks brand in Scotland and show that the company is still putting a great deal of investment behind it.
Meanwhile, the team headed by Johnstone is clearly not resting on its laurels: “Although we seem to have a recipe for success in serving the wholesale industry, we are always trying to up our game. How our customers view us is incredibly important to us.”
Tel: AG Barr (01204) 664200