Andrew Selley

Bidfood UK CEO Andrew Selley: ’Other buying groups dare to say that we’re not a proper buying group, or indeed that we’re not truly independent’

Bidfood UK CEO Andrew Selley has hit back at allegations that the members of its Caterfood Buying Group are not truly independent.

Since its creation, the Caterfood model has been met with scepticism from industry figures, who claim the organisation is a buying group in name only.

The criticisms focus on the fact that Bidcorp owns all seven businesses that make up the consortium, in contrast to a traditional buying group structure.

However, speaking at the FWD conference at the Midland Hotel in Manchester on Thursday, Selley said: “Other buying groups dare to say that we’re not a proper buying group, or indeed that we’re not truly independent.

“But if you go and speak to Mahesh [Patel] at Bidfood about Caterfood Buying Group then he’ll show you the door. He has nothing to do with Caterfood Buying Group because we have a separate team.”

“Are we independent? Well, independence is about attitude and aptitude, it’s not about ownership,” Selley added.

“If you have a business where you can sell what you like, to whom you like, at whatever price you like, and deliver it how you like, then I call that an independent business.”

In January, Bidcorp UK snapped up Hampshire-based independent wholesaler Harvest Fine Foods, closely followed by Suffolk-based  Thomas Ridley Foodservice, for undisclosed sums.

Both businesses subsequently joined the Caterfood Buying Group, taking the total number of members in the organisation to seven.

However, a senior industry source disagreed with Selley, telling The Grocer: “I am sure that Caterfood members will all be getting the same pricing and terms as Bidfood, based on the Bidfood purchasing scale.

“I think the only element of independence is that they can’t force through stocking of products nationally, and also that they aren’t using the Bidfood own brand.”

Selley also indicated that further acquisitions would follow in order to strengthen the geographical range of the proposition.

However, he stressed that the business was not an aggressive buyer.

”We are well known as an attractive exit route for founders who’ve made a fantastic business, but the gift is in the seller’s hand, not the buyer’s hand,” he said.

The Grocer understands Bidcorp has approached several independent wholesalers in recent months but that so far these approaches have been rejected by the owners.

“This is a growing part of our business; it’s a genuine buying group and we think it will do very nicely for us in the future,” said Selley.

Bidfood is also looking to grow its depot network, with two further openings planned for Bedford and Worcester over the course of the next year.

Selley said the business would continue with its strategy of opening and operating smaller warehouses that were closer to its customers.