Five regional logistics companies have joined forces in a bid to battle it out with major providers Kuehne + Nagel, Wincanton and DHL for key grocery contracts.

Harlequin Logistics brings together R Swain & Sons, Prestons of Potto, John Raymond Transport, Jack Richards & Son and Currie European Transport. The companies already handle regional contracts for suppliers such as Coca-Cola and P&G, and MD Paul Smith said combining their regional strengths would “create a national product” which would, ultimately, “target all the UK distribution” of companies such as Coca-Cola.

The “super-corporations” had let down fmcg suppliers by contracting out deliveries under fourth-party logistics set-ups, claimed Smith.

“They sit at the head of the operations and manage smaller sub-contractors, almost as an agent, and the service is fairly ropey,” he said. “People are paying top dollar for poor service and we think they’ll see Harlequin as a breath of fresh air.”

Harlequin is eyeing a £20m turnover within three years and would look to “increase it very significantly” after that, Smith said. Lower overheads meant it could offer contracts at around 5% less than the 4PLs, he added.