Explore Cuisine

Explore Cuisine is owed £1.6m by Blue Ocean

Third-party distributor Blue Ocean is on the brink of collapse and is set to leave suppliers facing losses of almost £3m, The Grocer has learned.

The Hampshire-based business acts as a sales broker between fmcg brands and all the major supermarkets, discounters, foodservice wholesalers and symbol groups.

CEO and company director Hamish Gibson is working with PKF Francis Clark as the business prepares to cease trading, with the accountancy firm expected to be officially appointed as liquidator tomorrow (12 October), according to legal filings.

A statement of affairs drawn up by the insolvency specialist – seen by The Grocer – revealed Blue Ocean owes more than 50 creditors £2.95m, with little hope for more than a small repayment.

Gluten-free plant-based pasta maker Explore Cuisine, which is based in the US and Switzerland and supplies Holland & Barrett, Planet Organic, Whole Foods Market and Amazon in the UK, is owed the biggest sum, at £1.6m.

Sainsbury’s is also owed more than £100k, while energy drink maker Hell Beverages UK is facing a shortfall of £270k, Swedish tobacco group Swedish Match is owed £195k and a number of other challenger brands are owed £50k or more.

Details on the cause of the collapse of Blue Ocean and any insolvent asset sale are not yet known.

It comes after The Grocer revealed in August that the company owed upwards of £100k in late payments to a handful of Asda suppliers that were switched by the supermarket to Blue Ocean following the administration of Tree of Life.

Gibson blamed delays on missing invoice payments from Asda, which the supermarket denied, countering it had paid Blue Ocean in full for all amounts owing and adding it was “disappointed” with the distributor.

A confectionery supplier to WH Smith contacted The Grocer after the story was published to report a similar situation with missing payments. The supplier said Blue Ocean had blamed the issue on WH Smith for not keeping up to date with invoices.

WH Smith has not responded to a request for comment on the issue, but the supplier added that WH Smith had been in touch to show all invoices owed by the retailer to Blue Ocean had been paid in full.

Gibson did not respond to a request for comment and PKF Francis Clark declined to comment.