Three former Somerfield heavyweights have launched an ambitious new wholesale and distribution venture to introduce new brands to the UK and take the grey ethics out of grey market sourcing.

Europa Brands was launched on 1 October by Somerfield's former chairman John von Spreckelsen, chief executive Steve Back, category buying director Hament Kotadia and - the only director from outside Somerfield - off-shore investor Rashmi Chatwani.

The venture has two arms: a distribution agency aimed mainly at brands looking to crack the UK market and a wholesaler arm aimed at branded suppliers using the grey market, the team revealed in an interview with The Grocer.

Von Spreckelsen is chairman, while Back and Kotadia are joint MDs. Back is overseeing finance, IT and logistics, and Kotadia is hand­ling trading and supplier negotiations. Chatwani is non-executive director.

Von Spreckelsen said that through the agency side they would be targeting brands with little or no presence yet in the UK as well as tertiary brands owned by major suppliers.

The first major brands would be Clorox, a US household care-to-foods brand, and Freshly Frozen Foods, a Dubai-based company that supplies Wal-Mart, among others, but has no UK presence. The Freshly Frozen Foods range would have to be developed before it was launched here, said Back, adding that negotiations were under way with three other brands.

Kotadia, the ex-Europa Foods buying controller who came up with the idea for the business, said that the demise of Food Brokers had opened a gap in the market. Von Spreckelsen added: "There are many foreign-based manufacturers that are badly represented here or have no representation. There is a niche for well-funded distribution. We seek to become the sole distributor for parties."

Distribution would be handled by third-party logistics companies and sought across the full spectrum of outlets, from multiple retailers to wholesalers.

However, the team, which is backed by £1m funding, said that it expected to initially generate a greater turnover from the wholesale arm. Back said: "The UK market is highly fragmented. It's got lots of supply, but lots of small operators. We can bring expertise and scale to this area. We can also bring something suppliers are desperately looking for: integrity and trust."

Europa would guarantee traceability, he said. "Suppliers sell product into the market and don't always know where it's going to pop up. They spend a lot of time managing the situation. We'll do it for them."

The business would also enter into a trading bond with suppliers to ensure transparency, said Kotadia.

Back added: "We are trying to move towards the US model, where in wholesale 83% of grocery goods are distributed by secondary players, and in retail up to 59%. The secondary market is already there. All we're trying to do is tidy it up."