Relationships between foodservice wholesalers and suppliers were put under the spotlight in a survey conducted last month by Zest Food Partners.
Worryingly, among the 60 respondents, only 12.5% of the wholesalers questioned said that 75-100% of their suppliers understand their business, compared to 34.6% of suppliers. And just 6.5% of wholesalers believe that suppliers understand foodservice in general, compared to 46% of suppliers.
Wholesalers want more insight from suppliers: only 13% are happy with the level and quality of data they currently receive – they are looking for more foodservice-specific data and more operator insight by channel.
“Wholesalers and suppliers should look to provide each other with relevant data,” said Nick Redford, strategy director of Zest Food Partners. “Gathering vital insight will enable smarter commercial decisions.”
In addition, wholesalers and suppliers alike recognise that there is some ground to make up in the area of digital support: just 26% of wholesalers are happy with the level they receive from suppliers, and only 31% of suppliers are satisfied with the digital support they offer wholesalers.
“There needs to be more collaboration between wholesalers and suppliers, with joint business plans and digital strategies in place,” advised Redford.
In an industry where wholesaler-supplier relationships are so important, it was disappointing to find that just 26% of wholesalers are happy with the level of contact/communication they are currently receiving from suppliers, whereas 50% of suppliers stated their satisfaction in their contact/communication with wholesalers – a clear mismatch.
Interestingly, 71% of wholesalers said they would prefer to be communicated with via email, whereas 70% of suppliers would prefer to meet in person. However 52% of wholesalers and 38% of suppliers think that virtual meetings “will last forever”.
“Success is reliant on strong relationships and collaboration, and it is important that we all take the time to connect and nurture relationships,” said Redford.
The study by Zest Food Partners was designed to find out what support wholesalers and suppliers need from each other to work better together to rebuild foodservice.
The recovery will take some time, according to the respondents: 42% of the foodservice wholesalers questioned think it will be 12-24 months before their business is trading at the same level it was pre-COVID, but the suppliers were more optimistic, with 50% predicting it will take 6-12 months for their business to get fully back on track.
“With concerns around product availability from both wholesalers and suppliers, as well as logistical issues and minimum order quantities, it is important that both parties work together to ensure the industry is prepared for the reopening of foodservice and hospitality,” added Redford.