factory gate revolution Elaine Watson The multiples' drive towards primary distribution is an opportunity rather than a threat for convenience foods specialist Northern Foods, said chief executive Jo Stewart. Northern Foods' national chilled distribution operation NFT will operate a primary distribution service for Sainsbury, trunking goods from several chilled manufacturers to a network of three dedicated hubs at Elstree, Bristol and Crick, plus two common user sites' at Penrith and Whitefield. Sainsbury will then transport goods from these hubs to its RDCs, rather than receiving a raft of deliveries direct from manufacturers. Sainsbury's savings from charging suppliers factory gate prices will be greater than its payment to NFT, so everyone is a winner, said Stewart. "We're eight weeks away from completing the transfer, but there is no doubt this is a more effective way of doing things. The network will handle the vast majority of Sainsbury's chilled requirements." The key priority for Northern Foods this year was to "back off and deliver on what we've done," after a year dogged by disruption from major restructuring projects, he added. However the company had seen "steadily improving trends throughout the year," with big wins in chilled recipe dishes, fresh chilled dairy, breads and frozen pizza at key customers Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury. News of M&S's aggressive expansion plans for Simply Food was "very heartening," said Stewart. "The format is very much skewed towards convenience food shopping." Northern is also talking to Sainsbury about how to manage the transfer of its own label NPD programme through an online workflow tool hosted by trading exchange GNX. Stripping out exceptionals, pre-tax profit for the year to March 31 fell 3% to £101m on sales up 5.9% to £1.45bn. {{NEWS }}