JimJulieDunns ForWeb

Dunns Food and Drinks is making a name for itself across the Scottish on-trade. Business has been brisk for the family-owned, Blantyre-based company, which is one of the few wholesaling businesses still in independent hands. Run by Jim Rowan and Julie Dunn, the company is now turning over in excess of £21m, with sales this year showing an increase of 36% in some sectors. Now the pair plan to take the business to the next level.
Jim Rowan, Managing Director explains, “You come to a point in any business when you ask yourself the question ‘Are we happy with the way things are going?’ Two years ago we decided to look at our business inside out and plan for the future. We looked at food, drink, dispense, soft drinks, training, our staff, computer systems and our office. It was a real forensic job. Then we put down a plan.”
Julie continues, “Since then we have been carrying out staff surveys and research with our customers, and we have taken on board what they have said.”
As a result Dunns Blantyre offices have been a given a complete make-over, and training rooms and kitchens, where cooking demonstrations can be carried out, have been created. A new computer system has been put in, and the company has added more than 600 products to its food and drink range, which now means Dunns can offer customers a choice of 3,500 lines, and growing. It has introduced an extended wine portfolio, as well as wine training for staff and customers through its new Dunns Wine Academy. The next step forward will be an online ordering service for customers. Jim explains, “We have identified our customers that are comfortable with online ordering. People still want to be able to talk to tele-sales, and we have increased the numbers here too, but we will be offering different products online, and with 50% of food service people phoning at night, they now will have the option of ordering online, particularly during the pressure point times between 8.30pm and 10pm.”
Says Jim, “Our aim is to be the number one recognised wholesaler for quality, pricing and range and we are certainly now moving in that direction. We are the only delivered wholesaler able to offer food, drink, wine, dispense, online ordering as well as training, and with our sales team now 12 strong, we are able to offer a personal service too.”
On the food side the company has moved from the Fairways buying group to Country Range, which says Jim, “Now means we can now offer 750 high quality own brand labels, which match the brand leaders. Our food service is now flying and that’s because we are offering different products from meat through to milk – in fact we are selling nearly 300,000 litres of milk a year. An example of taking on board what our customers were looking for was a suggestion that we offered a milk product with more protein in it, apparently which makes the froth of a cappuccino last longer. We spoke to our dairy supplier and have now introduced coffee milk. We are also growing our ambient range, more chefs than ever are cooking from scratch. Even chefs offering basic menus are creating a point of difference by using raw ingredients to cook.”
The day I caught up with Jim and Julie, they were just back from Chicago where they had been looking at the food service business. Says Jim, “We looked at Food Service, wholesalers, family businesses, restaurants – and were able to talk to the business owners. We also saw fast casual dining outlets. It was really interesting. The USA is a gigantic market place. We met one wholesaler, Reinhart, which is the third largest, privately held, foodservice distributor in the United States. It turns over $6bn and the next one up from them has a turnover of $42bn. Our market is only £7bn in total. The biggest single thing in the USA is customer service, and for the first time in 20 years the independent restaurant trade is growing; that is family-owned businesses as opposed to the likes of McDonald’s and Wendy’s. We also noticed that lots of restaurants were calling themselves ‘Winery and Restaurant’ which shows the importance of wine in the American market.”
They both were particularly impressed by a business called ‘Eatitaly’. Says Jim, “It was a combination of Wholefoods meets the old Fazzi’s Bros but on four levels. People were walking about drinking a glass of wine and browsing. It was absolutely jumping.”
Julie continues, “We were also blown away by a presentation we were given on ‘sustainability’. We visited a company that was even growing grass on its roof and had its own wind turbine. I’ve come back energised and have already been onto some of my suppliers to find out if we can be operating at an even more sustainable level. We do have LED lighting, a paperless office and we recycle. In fact we have sustainability champions in every department, but there is so much more we may be able to do.”
It’s not just the food side of the business that is growing, and the company’s commitment to sustainability. The company’s soft drink dispense business is also expanding. Julie explains, “We are doing a lot of installs and have grown our business by 11% over the last year. Lots of nightclubs use us, and with Coke no longer doing installations this is a real opportunity for us to grow the business further.”
The greatest level of growth however has been in the licensed sector and Jim is delighted with the progress there. He says, “We have flipped our relationship with suppliers. Our sales reps are more knowledgeable because we are bringing the brand representatives in to educate them, and by engaging with our suppliers we have been able to build better relationships, which has helped us grow our business, and they too have grown their businesses. It’s been a revelation. It has also meant that we can buy better and can pass these savings on to our customers.”
Another area that excites the Dunns Food and Drink team is the continued success of Currie’s Red Kola, which is one of four brands that the company owns. The company reverted to the original recipe and has introduced all natural colours and flavourings. It’s not an on-trade brand but it is now stocked in Waitrose, the Co-op, Key Stores, Asda, Day to Day and Booker, with another major retailer in the wings. It’s about to benefit from a new radio advertising and marketing campaign. Jim explains, “It is the best selling Red Kola in Scotland and it has been tremendously popular in Ayrshire, but we are now aiming to increase sales elsewhere too, and with the Commonwealth Games coming up we thought this would be the right time for a new campaign.”
Talking of the Commonwealth Games, Jim believes that this is a great opportunity for the licensed trade. “I think everyone will get a turn. Visitors will want to go out and most of them will be living within two miles of the city centre. It’s the best thing that has happened in Scotland for years, add to that there’s the Ryder Cup. It is shaping up to be a great year.”