>>The Grocer Big 30 turns spotlight on wholesale’s leading players


This week we launch an important industry survey. We have dubbed it The Grocer Big 30 and we see it as a great way of identifying the top players in wholesaling - as well as celebrating their successes and the vibrancy of the sector in which they operate.
That’s right, vibrancy. It is all too easy to dismiss wholesaling as a sector in terminal decline and ignore the very real opportunities that are being exploited by the smart players in the business.
As our survey shows, the top firms are a fascinating mix of foodservice operators, cash and carries and delivered wholesalers - all of whom are adopting different strategies to drive their top line. What’s really impressive is the fact that 24 of those in our ranking reported growth, while the top six each generated sales of more than £1bn. Together, the 30 companies in our ranking enjoyed sales of something like £16bn. There are also some exciting stories behind the figures we report this week - such as the impact being made by online wholesaler Blueheath. Not bad for a sector in decline!
Nobody is denying that our Big 30 are operating in a tough market - particularly as independent retailers remain under intense pressure. The challenge for delivered wholesaler and C&C alike is finding ways of helping these retailers compete against the major supermarkets and the co-ops, while finding new avenues of growth. For some wholesalers, merger and acquisition is the route worth exploring - and a couple of those on our ranking have done just that. As you can see from our survey on p41, the planned merger between Bestway and Batleys will create a new number three in the wholesaling market - and a clear number two in the world of cash and carry. Such consolidation will only intensify in the coming months and will clearly have made an impact on The Big 30 when we publish it for the second time next January.
While we applaud the achievements of all those on our Big 30 ranking - and those just bubbling under - our biggest round of applause is reserved for the company we have identified as the industry’s number one operator. Palmer & Harvey McLane has come a long way in the 80 years since it was founded as a confectionery and tobacco wholesaler. And it’s a business that clearly has no intention of slipping out of our top spot.
the best of a dynamic mix