At the recent Country Range Group conference, delegates heard how the organisation is focusing on scale, data, sustainability and its own-brand to drive further growth.
More than £2 million in orders was placed by Country Range Group’s 12 member wholesalers during the organisation’s annual exhibition and conference, held recently at Telford International Centre.
The event attracted over 100 suppliers, who showcased their products to 300 member executives.
At the conference session, CRG’s chairman Ton Christiaanse thanked suppliers for building strong relationships with the group: “It’s a very special year for the Country Range Group – 30 years – which is quite an achievement in such a competitive environment. It has only been possible because of close cooperation with our suppliers and I would like to thank you for that.
“The last 12 months have been a period of recovery, and we now have shortages, inflation and other global problems that we can’t really influence, but the group shows resilience and strength. I think this is based on shared ethics, shared beliefs and shared strategy, but also group buying discipline, which makes it possible for Country Range Group to make promises about volumes and growth. That discipline is what sets us apart from any competitive group in the market.”
Commercial director Martin Ward reported that, following a full strategic review, CRG has decided that its mission is still to ensure that members achieve faster and more profitable growth by being a member of the group. It is therefore focusing on four key areas: scale, data, the Country Range brand, and sustainability.
On the subject of scale, he said: “We are tracking well ahead of 2019 sales, and by the end of 2022 we will be at over £750 million. Over the next few years, we aim to reach our target of £1 billion in group turnover.
“We work tirelessly to make sure that if something can be purchased through the group then it is. The centre and our members are completely aligned on this.”
CRG collects purchasing and sales data from all members on a weekly basis, and this allows the purchasing team at central office to identify opportunities to put more products through the group and to understand who buys the products. This data is shared with key suppliers.
CRG is also investing in digital transformation. It is further developing its PIM (product information management) to ensure that all the information required to run its online platforms is fed directly to its members’ websites.
The Country Range brand is another key focus, and CRG recently commissioned customer research to ensure that the brand is fit for different customer sectors. “We expect sales to surpass £140 million this year,” said Ward. “After a couple of years of range rationalisation, we’re looking to launch over 25 new products by the end of the year.”
Earlier this year, CRG introduced a range of premium potato products, supported with enhanced digital marketing – a new blueprint for the way the group manages product launches. The updated approach included the use of QR codes on the promotional document for each member to take the caterer to that member’s ecommerce platform.
The group is similarly looking at different ways to improve sustainability. “Our members are sharing best practice in order to deliver a cleaner future,” noted Ward. “We’re setting ourselves tough targets with regard to operations, people and products.”
Head of marketing Emma Holden encouraged delegates to continue to work closely together: “Whether you’re a member or a supplier, our group is here to collaborate in order to support caterers around the UK and Ireland. Talk to us about your innovation – whether that’s products or sustainability – and share ideas and customer feedback, and we’ll be able to create bigger and better opportunities for us all.”
‘An Evening With’ the Country Range Group, which includes the organisation’s annual awards, will take place on 1 December at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Support for charities
More than £5,000 was raised for Hospitality Action by guests attending Country Range Group’s masquerade ball. This will be matched by CRG, resulting in a total donation of £10,000.
CRG worked with the charity FareShare to ensure that all the surplus food from the exhibition was redistributed to frontline charities and community groups.Published Date: June 13, 2022