Tempted to focus on core lines and shelve diversification plans? Don't. Diversifiation is the secret of success in a recession, Parripak MD Gavin McNally tells Michael Barker

The temptation is to batten down the hatches and stick with the solid sellers in a recession. Not at vegetable supplier Parripak, though.

Rather than following the usual fresh produce industry protocol of focusing on a small number of lines, the company claims to supply the complete vegetable range from carrots to kohlrabi via its two sites in Bedfordshire and Dumfriesshire and partners in the UK and abroad.

It's a strategy made possible by Parripak's acquisition of Gretna-based Solway Veg last year. According to MD Gavin McNally, the combined £34m business is now no more than three hours away from its customer base anywhere in the UK, and this security of supply makes all the difference in a downturn.

"It's all about trust. We try to offer a complete package for our suppliers, both in terms of the variety we offer to our customers and how quickly we can get it to them," explains McNally, whose customers include the likes of Northern Foods, Premier Foods and Domino's Pizza. "Being part of the William Jackson Food Group makes a big difference as well - cash is king in the current market and having this extra buying clout behind us gives us a competitive edge."

While onions, carrots and potatoes represent 80% of Parripak's income, it's specialist veg such as mooli and choi sum that makes the biggest margins.

However, McNally concedes it's impossible to be competitive on every line. "You take the rough with the smooth. Some suppliers can floret broccoli out in the field - we have to floret it in-house so there's a cost involved. Our advantage is that we can provide customers with all varieties in all manner of cuts. They don't have to buy from 20 to 30 different suppliers."

The company's strategy may be unconventional, but it clearly works. McNally claims an increased level of trade has come Parripak's way in recent months.

Now, to mark the integration of the Solway business under the Parripak name, the company is undergoing a facelift with a new logo. The rebranding brings other benefits as well.

"It's about getting back to our values and emphasising our environmental credentials," he says, pointing to Parripak's use of a bespoke borehole and effluent plant. McNally is also eyeing wind technology and hopes to generate 10% of Parripak's power requirement using onion waste.

Other plans include a concerted push into foodservice, an area McNally cites as a major opportunity. However, despite supplying M&S with "significant volumes" via third parties, McNally says he has no plans to start supplying retailers direct.

"It would distract us and might upset our relationship with manufacturers. You can't be all things to all men," he says.

True, but it seems where Parripak is concerned, you can be all things to some.