By MICK WHITWORTH
Regional food group Heart of England Fine Foods (HEFF) is launching a new delivery service with distributor Weddel Swift that puts it in direct competition with former delivery partner AF Blakemore.
The HEFF Delivery Service is being launched at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair, which opens this Sunday at London’s Olympia.
HEFF previously worked with AF Blakemore’s Heart Distribution division to provide a consolidated delivery service for smaller regional food businesses in the West Midlands.
However, that deal broke down late last year, and in March HEFF launched a new Trading Desk service. This offered retailers and caterers a central buying point for regional foods from HEFF members, but left producers to handle their own distribution or use a local courier.
Meanwhile, AF Blakemore, a major Spar wholesaler, has continued to develop Heart Distribution as a one-order, one-delivery, one-invoice service, representing nearly 140 regional suppliers.
Now HEFF says it has teamed up with Northants-based Weddel Swift to again provide its own full-service operation, which will go live from October 1 offering more than 2,000 lines from the region.
HEFF supply chain manager Jon May (pictured) said the HEFF Delivery Service would focus initially on developing sales in London food halls, which were not targeted under the previous arrangement with Heart Distribution.
“Since we launched the Trading Desk we’ve had a number of enquiries from London buyers,” he told FFD, “but those customers are not always happy about taking deliveries through couriers. Weddel Swift have already got well-established routes into those stores.”
He added: “London’s a core focus because it’s about new markets and that’s what we’re interested in.”
A key issue for both HEFF and Heart is likely to be whether the West Midlands sector can sustain two regional distributors.
Blakemore told FFD: “Over the last five years Heart Distribution has developed a sustainable supply service delivering over 1,500 products from 149 local producers to several hundred outlets, which is working extremely well for all parties involved.
“We are proud of the great service we give to these local producers and the close relationships we have built with them, and customers.
“We are pleased to see that another organisation believes in the growth of local products in a competitive marketplace.”
Jon May told FFD: “I can’t speak for Heart’s business model, but we have done our homework and believe that what we have built [with Weddel Swift] is sustainable.”