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MD’s Update – September/October 2018

The fantastic weather this summer has created a major talking point for us all and contributed to increased demand as well as interesting shifts in trading patterns. For example, demand for soft drinks – particularly healthier varieties with less sugar – has shown good growth. However, customers are also increasingly switching on to the improved margin potential of premium soft drinks.

During 2018, vegan diets have come to the fore in the press and media. To cater for this growing segment of the market, we now stock an interesting cheese range from Violife. This means many of your regular dairy cheese based recipes can be easily adapted.

Artisan cheeses from dedicated cheesemaker David Eaton who is based in Campbeltown incorporate both Isle of Kintyre flavour-blended cheddars to Howgate brie and blue cheeses. David is also the man behind the Inverloch Cheese brand that focuses on Drumloch Traditional – an award winning creamy cheddar. These feature in our recently launched September/October special offers brochure.

I also took to the fields recently and visited one of our local growers of salads and vegetables near Kinloss in Moray. A catch-up with father and son team Robert Reid Snr and Jnr was well overdue and reminded me of how important the story of locally grown produce is to the hospitality and catering sector. The incredible quality, freshness and flavour of their produce is right on our doorstep and is very satisfying to see.

Elsewhere, Skye Brewery – who are our top selling brewery – have launched Tarasgeir, a peat-smoked malt with a delicate smoky aroma. It also comes in 500ml bottles which we find is the optimum size and what your customers expect these days.

Building on our work earlier in the summer developing a range of chilled retail products, I am glad to say the choice here is greater than ever. We are investigating new additions all the time and I hope this carries us well into the winter with an extensive listing of both high quality chilled and dry retail products.

Whether you are in hotels, catering, restaurants or retail, or any other part of the north food and drink sector, I hope the momentum generated this summer carries us all into the autumn in good spirits and that we continue to extend the season into the winter for as long as possible.

Best wishes

Gary Williamson, Managing Director

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Produce Supplier Focus

A TRIP TO MORAYSHIRE SEES US CATCH UP WITH STALWARTS OF LOCAL PRODUCE THE REID FAMILY. AMONGST PERFECT ROWS OF FANTASTIC PRODUCE, WE STUMBLE UPON A RECYCLED WILLIAMSON’S RELIC FROM YESTER-YEAR AS WELL AS A SECRET TRACTOR MUSEUM.

At Williamson Foodservice the concept of ‘family’ extends to our suppliers and having greeted many of these at our Walkabout trade shows in the Western Isles and Lochaber earlier this year, it was time to get back to our roots and visit a local farm where much of our seasonal and fresh produce is sourced.

Enter father and son team Robert Reid Snr & Jnr who have supplied Williamson Foodservice with high quality, locally sourced produce for many years. Their Morayshire holding which has been farmed by their family since the 1940s is spread across two locations at Kinloss near Forres. It is situated just 25 miles from our main warehouse operation in Inverness.

The two Roberts took time to explain the delicate balance they need to find with challenges like the weather. When we met them hand harvesting Lollo Rosso from perfectly long straight ‘drills’ of these deep ruby red and very delicious salad leaves, the sun was beating down on us. We don’t need to remind everyone of the summer we have had but a ‘rain dance’ wasn’t far from everyone’s minds!

A couple of days later, prayers were answered and the wet stuff duly fell out of the sky and, for a while at least, balance was restored. On either side of the Lollo Rosso was Oakleaf and as its name suggests this is a much leafier salad that provides chefs with a different texture to work with complementing the Lollo’s vivid red. Iceberg lettuce and more traditional Flat Lettuce was also in abundance. The leaves being harvested were on their way to Inverness by lunchtime and in the kitchens of Williamson’s customers then onto the plates of diners across the Highlands within 24 hours.

These salad crops are planted from Springtime and staggered across the rest of the Summer to be harvested up until the early frosts of October and November. This phased approach to planting ensures the crop isn’t ready all at once and gives chefs a plentiful supply of local product for as long as possible. It also guarantees that all important provenance and local story the end consumer is increasingly interested in knowing about these days.

Chatting to the Reid’s, we raised the subject of how much land they farm and the figure of around 65 acres was mentioned. Fair enough you might think, but if you consider a football pitch is about 1.5 acres and the Reid’s employ no-one but themselves, you really do have to take your hat off to this hard working local supplier who is so highly committed to quality.

Not only this, but it’s not difficult to work out how much of this wonderful produce is destined for our warehouse in Inverness because the simple answer is… it’s all for Williamson’s! Although some of this land is held over for barley which helps with crop rotation and is used in whisky making, the other produce we buy is vegetables. This includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes and Romanesco (Romanesque).

A quick five minute drive took us to where these crops are located in another part of Kinloss that is straddled by the main Inverness to Aberdeen rail line. Like the salads, perfect rows of maturing ‘greens’ are in abundance in these lovely rich soils and all are staggered to ensure these last all the way to the end of the year and provide a local and tasty supply of Brussels Sprouts in time for Christmas.

Throughout our visit, the Reid’s were ably assisted by Robert Snr’s granddaughter and grandson Reanne (10) and Fraser (5). Reanne was eager to let us know about the names of the bugs that can threaten their crops. She also told us about how summertime hailstones can knock holes in some of the leaves! This is a young lady that has learnt a thing or two about farming and vegetables from her dad and grandad. She also wishes her classroom was an open air one and whilst she enjoys school work, we got the impression she would prefer to be out in the fields helping out – a young lass that will have a lot to show for her school holidays! And the answer to what her favourite vegetable is? Without hesitation:  Romanesco of course!

 

A quick hop back to the farmyard and around a corner we stumble on a refrigerated box container salvaged from the back of a scrapped Williamson’s delivery lorry from a bygone era – and our old logo is still just about legible! In a wonderful act of recycling and something that had slipped our minds, the container is now the home for this morning’s salad leaves that are kept luxuriously cool before being uplifted for their short journey through to Inverness.

Whilst it’s tempting to stay in the cool of the trailer while it bakes outside, our couple of hours with the Reid’s came to a close with an impromptu photo call that nicely contrasts young and old together in perfect harmony – Reanne and Fraser sitting proudly on an old Massey Ferguson tractor.

This is one of the Reid’s ‘wee’ collection of about a dozen Massey Ferguson’s that see machines from the 1980s sitting alongside their more modern counterparts. Incredible as it may sound one or two are still seeing active service. In a world of mass production, it is humbling to see farming techniques, approaches and machinery still alive and kicking as well as profitable and viable. Long may that continue!

Reanne left a lasting impression on us and as a third generation Reid involved in the farm, we wondered on the way back to Inverness how likely it might be that she could be the person Williamson’s deals with for their local salads and vegetables in years to come. We concluded this could be a distinct possibility and would certainly look forward to a day where that becomes a reality.

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MD’s Update – June/July 2018

Spring was a busy time for everyone at Williamson Foodservice as we took ‘Walkabout’ trade shows to Stornoway (March) and Fort William (April). It was wonderful to meet many existing customers and several new ones face to face. I greatly appreciate the effort those attending made by engaging so enthusiastically with us as well as the suppliers who accompanied us at these events.

As we leave Spring behind and having enjoyed some glorious weather throughout May and early June, reports from around the Highlands and Islands indicate the hospitality and catering trade is showing more signs of growth and we at Williamson Foodservice would echo this experience.

To help customers make the most of the summer peak season we have introduced some exciting new products and flavours to our wholesale business. These include a new line in handmade and craft smoked artisan hot dogs as well as Rodda’s Clotted Cream. Whether you are providing barbecue banquets or afternoon teas, these premium products are sure to maximise customer satisfaction and profits.

During May we devoted a significant amount of energy into developing a new chilled range with retailers in mind. These products include cooked meats, bacon and sausages to snacks, sandwiches and dairy products. I am glad to say interest has exceeded expectations and we hope to refine and add to this range going forward to help satisfy demand, maximise convenience and offer great value.

Illustrating our commitment to local products and continually championing provenance, other items to look out for that have just been launched include Highland Crackers. This is a true artisan product with Great Taste Award accreditation. They are highly adaptable in their ability to grace any high end or fine dining cheeseboard or are a worthy alternative to bread or oatcakes when accompanying soups.

Recently launched herring products from the Orkney Herring Company are prepared in marinades that create soft textures, delicate flavours and are great as the centrepiece in starters or within seafood platters.

Our launch of Sutherlands Cakes earlier in the year has shown there is good demand for a different cake offering that complements others in our product range. Sutherlands offer high value, great margin and some real classics from empire biscuits and Viennese whirls to gypsy creams and Madeira loaf. Most of these come with very healthy shelf lives which helps cafés, coffee shops and tea shops plan better, minimise waste and maximise repeat custom.

All of the products mentioned in this piece can be found in our recently launched June/July brochure which can be downloaded here. In other news, we recently took delivery of another two 18 tonne bespoke lorries following the two we put on the road last year. These will be complemented by six new refrigerated vans that will be dropping your deliveries off from later in June onwards. These considerable investments underlines our commitment to ‘Taking freshness further’ and making sure deliveries reach you in optimum condition.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to a stalwart of Williamson Foodservice in Kenneth Afrin who we lost in the Springtime. He fought his illness so bravely and along with many of our customers, we happily remember his considerable presence in our sales office. He is greatly missed by everyone.

Best wishes,

Gary Williamson, Managing Director

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Williamson Walkabout trade event comes to Lochaber

Hospitality, catering and other food and drink businesses in the Lochaber area now have the opportunity to attend the next Williamson Walkabout trade event scheduled for Wednesday 25th April 2018. The free to attend event comes hot on the heels of a highly successful Walkabout held in Stornoway in March.

Customers and prospective customers from Fort William, Mallaig, Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus, Spean Bridge, Ardnamurchan, Ballachulish, Kinlochleven and Glencoe will have a great chance to find out more and see and sample hundreds of products from around 40 of our key food and drink suppliers who hail from all over the UK. Entry is for the trade only and bookings can be made quickly and conveniently at www.foodwalk.co.uk.

Suppliers represented, many of whom are Scottish or local to the Highlands and Islands, will all be under one roof at the Moorings Hotel, near Fort William. They will attend the event in person providing demonstrations, offering free tastings and highlighting the key benefits of their products. The trade only event will help join up the food sector, resulting in better product knowledge and in turn it will help those attending to enhance their food and drink offering and increase profitability.

A wide selection of goods from artisan cheese, craft beers and premium soft drinks to an array of catering ingredients, wines, beverages, essential kitchen supplies and cakes will be on offer. A fresh produce display will also be on show.

The event is aimed at anyone from the Lochaber catering, hospitality and retail trades and is free of charge. Hotel, restaurant and café owners are therefore welcome to attend along with their staff which can include chefs, bar staff and cleaning personnel.

All suppliers will offer a one-day only rich promotional deal that provides excellent value for local businesses currently planning their Spring and Summer offerings.

The Lochaber Walkabout is a thank you from Williamson’s to its valued customers. As well as free samples, tasters and a goody bag, high quality catering and hospitality is provided throughout the day and recognises the fact that several customers will travel significant distances to the event.

It will also help those coming along to understand the diversity of Williamson’s range which now extends to over 3,000 product lines from dozens of different suppliers. The Show takes place at an ideal time as Williamson’s daily Monday to Saturday delivery schedule down the Great Glen and into Fort William and the surrounding area starts to prove popular with existing and new customers alike.

With the Highlands and Islands attracting wider global attention as a destination of choice, 2018 has every chance of providing another great opportunity to grow the north’s hospitality and catering sector with Williamson Foodservice standing by to help service this.

Its growing fleet of 30 vehicles cover everywhere from Lochaber, Skye, Ross-shire and the Western Isles to Inverness, Moray, Caithness and Sutherland as well as parts of Argyll.

Those attending can also catch up with others from the trade, network with new businesses or simply chat to Williamson’s staff and suppliers about their future plans or requirements in a designated meeting area.

Doors open at 10:30am on Wednesday 25th April 2018 at the Moorings Hotel, near Fort William. Entry is by ticket only and early booking to guarantee your place is recommended. This can be made easily and securely at www.foodwalk.co.uk

For further information call us on 0345 450 8888. We look forward to seeing you there!

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MD’s update – April/May 2018

As we all officially get a Spring in our stride at this time of year, we have been busy organising and delivering two trade shows in different parts of the Highlands.

Our Williamson Walkabout trade event in Stornoway during March has already taken place and we are very pleased with the results. We saw nearly 100 customers on the day who really appreciated meeting several of our key suppliers in person. The show featured over 40 other food and drink manufacturers from all over the UK that represented a good cross section of our 3,000 product range.

We are now preparing ourselves for the next trade event which is scheduled at the Moorings Hotel near Fort William on 25th April. I hope as many of you from the Lochaber area can come along as possible! We have a special ‘one-day only’ catalogue full of great offers but you have to attend to qualify for these

In Lochaber, virtually every exhibitor will have a manned presence so, as well as meeting many of our own staff, we will have 35-40 suppliers attending in person too. They will be there to help explain our range and how to increase your returns, cater for your market more effectively and offer new options you may not be aware of. With spaces filling up already, guarantee your places by logging on to www.foodwalk.co.uk. Both these shows help join up the food sector in these areas and results in better product knowledge and awareness.

The Lochaber event also comes at an ideal time as our daily Monday to Saturday delivery schedule down the Great Glen and into Fort William and the surrounding area starts to prove popular with both existing and new customers.

Our recently launched April/May issue introduces a range of foodservice sized Müller yoghurt to help satisfy guests at breakfast time. Innovative one cup coffee filters from Café Express are also available for the first time. These give that real coffee taste in a convenient and novel package that your customers are sure to be talking about. We also feature high quality deli and fine dining ingredients that produce the wow factor in higher end dishes.

Recently we’ve been speaking to a small selection of craft breweries about cask and KeyKeg options and you will see these gradually introduced over the summer. The WooHa Brewing Co and Thistly Cross Cider are leading the way on this. Understanding the need to refresh your cask and KeyKeg offering on a regular basis, WooHa are launching ‘Off Kilter’ in April as a special edition Scotch Ale and this will be quickly followed by ‘Sunshine IPA’ in May – so watch this space! These options can all really help your business capitalise on the demand for local/Scottish craft beers – and most importantly keep customers coming back for more. Please remember we can assist with couplers, lines and POS material to support your offering.

We have also recently taken in a good quality and high value cake option in Sutherlands Cakes. They offer excellent margin possibilities either on their own or as part of your wider traybake/cake offering. Sutherlands has been supplying cakes and traybakes for over 10 years and we are carrying 74 lines including cakes, sponges and muffins to biscuits, tray bakes and loaves. Several of these options come individually wrapped which give customers maximum confidence and convenience. Find out more about these on our website.

As Spring becomes established, foraged produce will again come to the fore so do ask about what we have in season. In the meantime, as we put a pretty cold winter behind us, I look forward to meeting old faces and new at our trade event in Fort William on 25th April where I hope we can help you explore new possibilities, increase your margins and meet your food and drink goals.

Here’s to a successful 2018 season for everyone in the north’s food and drink sector!

Best wishes,

Gary Williamson, Managing Director

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