I established Empire Food Brokers in 1997 as an importer of high quality health foods. At the time it was part of Adminstore, which had a chain of 60 convenience stores across London that traded under the Europa, Cullens and Harts fascias. They were sold to Tesco in 2004 for £53m.
Tell us a bit about Empire Food Brokers
Empire Food Brokers is an importer and distributor of fine foods and drinks. We import from all over the world, but our primary focus is the US. Our product range includes Beech-Nut Baby Food, No-No Flatbreads, Terra Original Chips, Nabisco Oreo Cookies and Cereal, Hershey Kisses/Bars and Betty Crocker. We currently have listings with Asda, Booths, Morrisons, MBL, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, Somerfield, Selfridges, Harrods, the independent sector and wholesalers. We employ 12 people and three consultants, with offices in the UK and the US.
How have you built up the company?
In 1997 we started importing Beech-Nut products to 300 chemists. Then we took on Terra Original Chips, which was a big breakthrough for a small company like us. We were also the first company in the UK to import flat bread from the US, which is fat-free and sugar-free. From our original listings with Selfridges, we now supply the department store with 38% of its grocery products, including sugar-free confectionery. Our department store listings are very successful and we supply 400-500 products to Harrods and Selfridges alone. We also supply Tesco with its Extra Special snacks range.
What are your plans for the business?
I want to do more work with clients to develop US lines in the UK, especially breakfast lines. Next year we are also planning to open our own plant for vacuum-fried snacks. The current turnover of the company is nearly £10m, but our strategy is to double sales every two years through organic growth and acquisitions.
What is your working week like?
I get to go out and develop new brands and look for new products. I meet buyers from the multiples and department stores to discuss new ideas. The afternoons are especially busy because the US starts to wake up then. I usually visit there at least once a month. I'm also involved with a Hindu temple in Neasden, north west London. It has its own snack production and restaurant, so I look after the retail side there.