Foods basket

Premier Foods has issued a strong rebuttal to suggestions suppliers prioritise the major supermarkets over wholesalers in terms of availability.

Speaking at the Federation of Wholesale Distributors annual conference in Manchester last week, Premier Foods UK customer director Ellie Krupa said she was offering a right of reply to accusations of preferential treatment.

“I can’t speak for every supplier but I can answer for Premier Foods and that is absolutely not the case,” she said. “Why would we do that?

“For foodservice if you don’t have a product available, the consequence of that is that the end user has to change their menu, they have to change their allergen information. Once they have done that, because they can’t get your product, when that product becomes available again, are they really going to change it again? Probably not.

“That is a lost sale forever potentially, so why would I prioritise anyone else if that is the consequence?”

Krupa also said the impact of poor availability in convenience retail would be greater than in supermarkets, which have a bigger range, meaning shoppers are more likely to find a suitable alternative.

“If I can’t supply Bisto to a convenience retailer then they probably won’t have a gravy option to sell to a customer, so again it’s so much more important and that is absolutely the reason we do not make these decisions [to prioritise supermarkets],” she added.

Issues around availability were much more likely to be due to the complexity of supplying the wholesale sector, she said.

Krupa gave an example of an Angel Delight product made by Premier Foods specifically for wholesalers supplying the education sector. The product had one ingredient that Premier did not use in any other product in its range. The ingredient was in short supply last year, meaning Premier was unable to source it, which led to a “situation in which we were out of stock on that product for quite a while”.

“What I would say is we all strive for that 100% but we also strive for creating good complexity in this channel to meet the needs of the customers and this does create vulnerability in terms of availability,” she said.

“So all I am asking is seek to understand the drivers [of issues] rather than jumping to conclusions. What we need to do is work together to overcome all of those challenges.”