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Scottish Region visit to Brakes Distribution Centre, Bellshill - Wednesday 24 September 2008

Members of the Scottish Region, in suitable attire, being shown round the Brakes Distribution Centre by Alan Brown, the Distribution Centre Manager (far right).d

All wrapped up - Members of the Scottish Region, in suitable attire, being shown round the Brakes Distribution Centre by Alan Brown, the Distribution Centre Manager (far right).

© John G. Fender 2011

The first event of the 2008 - 2009 session was a visit to Brakes Distribution Centre, Bellshill. The visit took the form of a presentation on Brakes by Alan Brown, Distribution Centre Manager, Brakes Group and a tour of the facility.

In his presentation Mr. Brown briefly outlined the history of Brakes. The company was founded in 1958 by William, Frank and Peter Brake to supply poultry to caterers in Kent and London. In 1963, seeing an opportunity to expand the business, frozen foods began to be distributed.

In 1969, the company started to supply ready meals and opened it's own cooked food factory at Lenham. The company concentrated on the pub market. In 1974, the company decided to concentrate on frozen foods and closed down the poultry business.

In 1986 the company was floated on the stock exchange and by 1991 the company was looking at other opportunities to expand. In 1992 the company acquired Country Choice, the bakery business and launched it's Larderfresh chilled foods business. The business also acquired it's first French company and further expansion in France followed over the next few years. In 1995 the Puritan Maid contract distribution was purchased and in 1998 the ambient and chilled grocery products business of Watson & Philip Foodservice was acquired. The following year saw the acquisition of Cearns & Brown, an ambient supplier and and M&J Seafood, specialist seafood suppliers.

In 2002 a major rebranding of the business took place and the company became known as Brakes. The company also acquired Pauleys, the fresh fruit and vegetable supplier. The biggest change was that the Brake family decided to sell their shareholding and the business was sold to Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, an American investment company. Further acquisitions took place in 2004 when Wild Harvest, a specialist supplier to high quality restaurants and Peters Foodservice Chilled Business Division were both acquired.

The company has not only been successful in it's expansion as it took the Best Wholesaler 2005 title at that year's Grocer Gold Awards and in 2006 the company was named Best Delivered Wholesaler at Scottish Wholesale Association's Achiever Awards. Last year the company was acquired by Brakes Group was acquired by a subsidiary of Cucina Lux Investments Limited, a company under the ultimate control of Bain Capital.

The company currently employs some 7000 staff at 70 locations throughout the UK and handles something in the region of 15,000 different products. There are 400 sales representatives and the company also has it's own telesales teams. The party was given a brief demonstration of the telesales operation by Rena Grant, the Telesales Manager who explained how Brakes looks after it's customers. Sales teams are dedicated to certain types of client and sales staff have their own customers and this helps to foster a close working relationship between the customers and the company. Customers are called at the same times each day.

Orders are then processed and the party was given a demonstration of how product codes are used in ordering and distribution. The entire product catalogue is also on line and this enables sales staff to give detailed information to customers about products. The company has a 99.9% stock availability and can deliver orders taken before 1800 by 0600 the following morning to most parts of Scotland. The company moves around 750,000 boxes a day to over 120,000 catering customers. In Scotland the company has 580 employees, 162 vehicles and approximately 183,000 square feet of warehousing. It has facilities at a number of locations including Bellshill, Tannochside, Glasgow, Broxburn, and Inverness.

The company is committed to a high quality service and one of the key features is the exacting standards applied to suppliers. Suppliers have to meet strict q, hygiene and food safety standards that are assured through BRC certification. In addition the company is certified to level CMi certification with the result that its storage, handling and distribution meets the highest standards. This means that all products can be traced through the distribution network and that any product that does not meet the strict requirements will be rejected.

The company has introduced significant initiatives in tackling the environmental problems that face society. It has launched a new type of cardboard carton that reduced cardboard use by 20% and coupled with the fact that boxes are made from 65% recycled material, highlights the efforts Brakes is making at reducing it's impact on the environment. In addition the company recycles over 30% of all of it's waste materials and vehicles run on biodiesel. Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils have been removed from it;s own brand products and the company has achieved ISO14001 accreditation. The latest initiative is that the company used renewable energy and some 95% of electricity purchased comes from renewable sources. The company also monitors energy usage closely.

After the presentation, the party toured the site and owing to the low temperatures, heavy coats were required to be worn, along with a protective hard hat. Once attired, the party was taken round the facility by Mr. Brown and James Hooman, Warehouse Manager. Inside the frozen food warehouse, various details of how products are distributed were explained and members were able to see orders being made up for delivery. Mobile racking is used to improve efficiency in the use of space and the store is divided into two levels, the upper level housing the slower moving product lines.

After spending some time in the frozen food warehouse, the party then looked at the ambient foods warehousing and this was followed by a look at the various vehicles used for deliveries. The evening was rounded off by question and answer session accompanied by welcome cup of tea and the opportunity to sample some of the products made by the company. The evening concluded with a vote of thanks from the Chairman and the presentation to both Mr. Brown and Mr. Hoonan of a Scottish Region engraved quaich.

The Scottish Region would like to thank Mr. Alan Brown, Distribution Centre Manager, Brakes Group and Mr. James Hooman, Warehouse Manager, for enabling this visit to take place and for providing an insight into the company. Further information on Brakes can be found on their website at

Report by John Fender.


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