Simply Fresh Crosby

Source: SimplyFresh

The talks followed Sainsbury’s withdrawal from wholesale in July last year

The Grocer has learned that SimplyFresh held discussions with Waitrose as a potential replacement supply partner in the wake of Sainsbury’s pulling the plug on its wholesale operations last summer.

It emerged that Sainsbury’s was withdrawing from wholesale in July last year. At the time there were five SimplyFresh stores in the supplied-by-Sainsbury’s model, although it had a target of signing up 30 retailers to the format by the end of the year. The remainder of the 90-plus SimplyFresh estate continued to be supplied via Costcutter, which is owned by Bestway but still uses the Nisa supply chain.

The Grocer understands that SimplyFresh spoke to Waitrose, which is continuing to grow its wholesale arm, shortly after the Sainsbury’s move but the parties did not come to an agreement.

Waitrose has recently agreed to supply Dobbies garden centres, which had previously worked with Sainsbury’s. Waitrose will supply over 2,000 products, including ready meals, free-from and vegan lines, prepared fruit and vegetables, snacks and store cupboard staples. The first launch was at Dobbies garden centre in Edinburgh in July, with more locations being added later this year and throughout next year.

The upscale supermarket said the move marked its ambitions to grow its convenience business, having already struck wholesale deals with Scottish convenience chain Margiotta and Channel Island convenience store chain Alliance.

Waitrose also has plans to supply 125 Shell forecourts by 2025. Additionally, it expanded its ongoing deal with Deliveroo earlier this year to make its products more widely available via the delivery company’s on-demand service.

“Following Sainsbury’s termination of their worldwide wholesale business, SimplyFresh assessed the market for alternative supply partners,” SimplyFresh said in a statement to The Grocer.

“All these discussions have been subjected to mutual non-disclosure agreements and as such we cannot comment further other than to say SimplyFresh and SimplyLocal stores are supplied by Bestway Wholesale and Nisa.”

In July, SimplyFresh co-founder and COO Kash Khera told The Grocer’s sister publication, Convenience Store, that the business was not currently intending on changing supply routes, but said it was always open to conversations.

“Are we looking to change suppliers at the moment? No, we’re not. Are we talking to other businesses? We’re always talking to everyone,” said Khera.

“This is the exciting thing about this sector, there’s never a time when people are not talking. Everyone wants the best for their business, for their customers and their customers’ customers. There will always be conversation.”