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Margins under pressure in food industry

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Following the hospitality industry’s bleak start to 2012 with three restaurant closings, wholesaler Butterfield & Vallis is concentrating on helping their existing clients remain competitive.

Hosting a food trade show at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess yesterday, Alun Hughes, president and general manager of Butterfield & Vallis’s Foodservice Division, brought together more than 20 of their US and European suppliers for his customers to browse new products.

Chefs, restaurant and hotel owners and grocery butchers, among others, were invited to chat with vendors of cheeses, meats, pastries, hot food and more.

“Our intention is every couple of years to re-engage our customers with what’s happening around the world,” said Mr Hughes. “We take for granted some of the items that we regularly have in Bermuda, like Italian pasta and tomatoes, sausages from the UK, butter from France and vegetables from Central Africa.”

Although the restaurant industry continues to struggle, Butterfield & Vallis’s Foodservice Division, the portion that works with commercial clients, has managed to eke out some small growth during the recession.

“We’ve been really focused on where there is still potential,” said Mr Hughes. “Our margins, though, are under pressure.”

Asked if he was worried seeing restaurants close their doors, he said: “It could be said that there was too much inventory but you have to be worried when your customer base is shrinking. You have to hope and believe the strong and the efficient will survive. We’re doing everything possible to help them.”

In order to better serve clients, Butterfield & Vallis, which has been named to The Bottom Line’s Top 10 Employers in Bermuda survey for the past several years, has invested heavily in technology, allowing its sales force to place orders on site and address any issues that come up in real time.

But in a recession, he says, everyone wants a deal.

“Customers in difficult times demand more because they are, at times, struggling for their own survival,” he said. “We have had to provide more for less; that’s our ‘watch word’ but that’s the way it is. We are identifying opportunities for clients and work with them to be more creative with their menus, help reduce their costs but not the quality of their food.”

Yummy: The Butterfield & Vallis Food Trade Show was held at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess yesterday(Photo by Akil Simmons)
Beef backers: Maggie O?Quinn, executive account manager for Certified Angus Beef Brand, presents Philip Barnett and Derick Meyers of the Hog Penny for 25 years of serving Certified Angus Beef. Ms O?Quinn also presented Butterfield & Vallis with an award at the Food Trade Show hosted by the food supplier yesterday for 28 years of promoting the brand. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Alun Hughes, of Butterfield & Vallis, at the Food Trade Show, hosted yesterday by his company (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 29, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 29, 2012 at 9:23 am)

Margins under pressure in food industry

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