Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, who paid a visit to the Aston branch of JJ Food Service – an event largely arranged by the FWD – heard about problems facing the trade, including a shortage of HGV drivers and business identity fraud, which has cost the Enfield-based wholesaler tens of thousands of pounds.
The MP, who also listened to opinions expressed about the national living wage and the proposed soft drinks levy, received a guided tour of the 30,000 sq ft site by the company’s group general manager Terry Larkin and deputy branch manager Ruhel Ahmed.
The MP is no stranger to the wholesale sector, having visited a number of cash & carries with her father, who owned a convenience store. The trip was part of a fact-finding mission for Mahmood, who is investigating what more can be done to support local workers ahead of next year’s mayoral election in Birmingham. During her visit she said: “Food has a great place in the story of Birmingham,” adding that there is tremendous scope to develop food exports.
Larkin, who said that JJ is ever watchful of future trends and adapting where necessary, commented: “The focus is on our independent customers. We help them develop their business, particularly with technology and online ordering.” He also touched on JJ’s efforts at promoting healthier eating in London, saying that the company was keen to work together with the MP to extend this initiative to Birmingham.
FWD chief executive James Bielby praised the Aston depot in its support of 3,000 catering customers. He added: “Wholesalers like JJ are an important part of the UK economy, both locally and nationally, but are often under-recognised as such.”