How to find the right wholesaler

By Fiona McLelland

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soft drinks, Wholesale, Beer

Wholesalers can help you stand out from the competition
Wholesalers can help you stand out from the competition
When it comes to selecting a wholesaler to service your business, there’s a whole new world of experienced operators and new kids on the block to choose from. And, the PMA discovered, they each have something different to offer

The advantages of using a wholesaler to stock the bar couldn’t be plainer: no restrictions, just the freedom to stock what you want, when you want it.

But the relationship between wholesalers and publicans is far more than just a contract to supply drinks. We take a look at what some of the leading wholesalers are doing to help pubs update their listing.
New model

St Austell service

National drinks wholesaler Matthew Clark believes traditional wholesaling is no longer enough for today’s market: pubs are looking for more than a simple drinks delivery.

“We can’t just drop off a box of drinks and leave to them to get on and sell it. We need to look after our customers, and help them look after theirs,” says marketing communications manager Emmy Webster.  

The wholesaler supplies 16,000 on-trade premises and offers its customers training, wine listing, menu design and engineering support. The latter has proved a big account winner, as it can produce significant sales uplifts.

The company also sees itself as a facilitator, helping pubs to access quality category, brand and product training directly from brands, winemakers and vineyards.

Improving service levels

Improving service levels is also high on the agenda at Bestway, which has recently doubled the size of its business development team.

door to door delivery

“The team is there to help publicans grow their business,” says Rupinder Toor, senior category manager, licensed. “They give advice on growing consumer trends and information, NPD (new product development) and promotions, and work with publicans to develop the optimum range for their business.”

The wholesale giant provides a one-stop shop for lagers, ales and cider, world beers, ales, spirits and wines, through 60 Bestway and Batleys depots and its national distribution arm, Drinks Express. With purchasing power in excess of £2.5bn, it can negotiate better deals for customers.

Toor says: “We pride ourselves on our promotional offers, such as spirits deals for 1.5L Jack Daniels selling at £34.99.”

Fresh perspective

Business support

Today’s Group has dramatically increased its presence in the on-trade sector. Since the end of last year, 16 new on-trade wholesalers have joined the UK’s largest independent wholesale buying group, taking its buying power to £1.5bn. The group hopes this new division can bring a fresh perspective to the on-trade.

Brand marketing manager Anita Oakhill says: “Not only are we working with our new on-trade division to offer better terms to our members; we’re also working with suppliers to bring the trading disciplines of the retail sector to the on-trade.”

These disciplines include a rig-orous approach to promotions, with a rotating programme covering wines, spirits, bottled and canned beers, cask ales, soft drinks and mixers.

Changing times

Just two years into trading, Ooberstock is on a mission to shake up the wholesale sector. Next month [July], the firm will launch a website for publicans to do their ordering online.

“Our online platform is ahead of the curve,” says director Steve Brogan. “Publicans increasingly shop online for their personal purchases, and want to do the same for their businesses.”

The newcomer’s determination to do things differently doesn’t end there. To create transparency and consistency, Ooberstock offers a single price model, so pubs in Shetland get the same prices as in London.

And it offers credit to enable customers to stock up for a busy weekend with a mid-week delivery.

“We want to make dashing to the cash-and-carry on a Saturday morning with Friday night’s takings a thing of the past,” says Brogan.

More than beer

Molsen Coors’ delivered wholesale service offers access to a comprehensive drinks offer that covers not just the brewers’ own beers, but other leading beer brands, as well as wine, cider, spirits and soft drinks.


“Our national sales team works with customers to ensure they have the latest products that suit their consumers,” says Martyn Cozens, UK sales director, independent on premise, Molson Coors.

There is also a dedicated team of wines and spirits specialists to help pubs optimise these key product categories, and a drinks menu design-and-print service, with tasting profiles to match food with beer, spirits and wines.

Another brewer is offering the full wholesale service to the south-west. St Austell Brewery delivers beer, wines, spirits and soft drinks to more than 3,500 licensed outlets in the region. Recent expansion into Bristol, Bath and Gloucestershire contributed to 15% revenue growth to £55m in 2013.

“Our success is due to an expansive range of products, combined with excellent sales advice, support and customer service, says sales director Ian Blunt.

“We also bring detailed local knowledge to help customers identify trends and provide a winning drinks list.”

Last year, St Austell’s bought The Real Beer Company, an Exeter-based craft and guest beer wholesale specialist. The objective being to ensure customers could capitalise on the trend for diversification of drinks menus. Further investment has gone into its £13m wine business, including the introduction of 200 new wines in the last year.

Blunt says: “By providing excitement and interest in the category, we can help customers stand out from the competition.”

It’s investment like this that helps wholesalers develop long-term relationships with pubs, ultimately helping to build sales and profits for both businesses.

Carlsberg support package

Carlsberg UK’s portfolio of brands in the UK includes three of the top five fastest growing lager brands and its industry leading support package is available on

Business partners now include Greene King, Marston’s, JD Wetherspoon, Barracuda and the National Union of Students to name a few, while its own brands are growing annually as it introduces new brands from countries and breweries around the world.

Football fever

This summer, Booker is offering a Football Fever promotion on Isla Negra Seashore Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc from its Cono Sur Chilean wine range, while other wine offers for Jacob’s Creek are also available at Booker currently.

The wholesaler is also promoting WKD Brazilian, which can help pubs and bars promote sales during the World Cup. Magners Original and Magners Pear ciders are being promoted by Booker, while for easy-build cocktails Absolut flavours will also get a push.

Related topics: Training

Related news

Show more

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more


Subscribe to The Morning Advertiser

The definitive voice for the pub trade

Get the latest news, analysis and insights from the uk pub sector straight to your inbox!