Growing Kent importer VIDAfresh again among 1,000 companies to inspire Britain

VIDA1

(Left to right) Rob Liston, Terry Watts, Chris Rawlins and Scott Davies, the owners of Vidafresh

UK importer VIDAfresh has been recognised for its inspirational approach to business as one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the UK. The melon, pineapple and citrus specialist has been identified as one of the London Stock Exchange Group’s ‘1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain’. PBUK speaks with VIDAfresh CEO Terry Watts to find out what makes the Kent-based distributor stand out from the crowd.

Established in 2010, VIDAfresh supplies several leading retailers, the major fresh-cut processing businesses, foodservice companies and wholesalers across the UK with a wide selection of fresh fruits, from top fruit to tropicals, as well as vegetables and salads. Its industry expertise lies with melons, pineapples and citrus.

The company describes itself as a highly experienced team that adds value by working directly with its growers and commercial partners to deliver cost-effective and innovative fresh produce sourcing. 

Thanks to this approach, VIDAfresh CEO Watts says this is the second time in just three years that VIDAfresh has been identified as one of the London Stock Exchange Group’s ‘1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain’ in what is only the fifth edition of the report. 

“According to the London Stock Exchange Group, to be included in the report you have to ‘demonstrate positive growth in revenue and assets over a three-year period, and to outperform your peers in your own sector,' ” Watts tells PBUK

“I am extremely pleased to say that having increased our revenue by 34 per cent in our last financial year we have once again done exactly that. We were first included in this list in 2015, and given the fact that there are 5.7m SMEs in the UK, I am not shy to say that this is an amazing achievement by the VIDAfresh team and a huge privilege to once again be awarded the title of one of Britain’s most inspirational companies.”  

Five years on, Nikhil Rathi, CEO of London Stock Exchange Plc, said its annual report continues to demonstrate the strength and diversity of British businesses across the UK. 

“These dynamic companies are the backbone of our economy, playing an important role in the UK’s ability to innovate, export and grow,” Rathi explained. “This report is a significant part of London Stock Exchange Group’s broader campaign to support UK high growth companies. We are committed to championing British businesses and Britain’s dynamic entrepreneurial spirit.”

Since its inception in 2010, VIDAFresh’s passion for fresh produce has taken the company from strength to strength. Apart from growing the turnover of the business in a highly competitive industry from zero to £50m in just eight years, Watts claims VIDAfresh has demonstrated that the UK offers a positive environment within which SMEs can operate successfully. 

“We have shown that with the right work ethic the UK is a place where SMEs can thrive, while at the same time contributing to the economy by creating jobs and helping to boost confidence in the UK’s ability to prosper whatever the outcome of Brexit,” Watts comments. 

Indeed, Watts claims VIDAfresh has evolved into the UK’s leading and largest melon importer; sourcing throughout the year from its supply base in Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Spain, Italy, France, Morocco, Turkey and Greece.

The company also operates a fast-growing pineapple and citrus business that continues to take more UK market share within the two categories. VIDAfresh’s pineapples arrive year-round from Costa Rica, while citrus sourcing is focused on Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Egypt, Italy and Spain.

And it doesn’t stop there. VIDAfresh remains on an ambitious growth path, with a desire to branch out further.

“We are very optimistic about our future and very confident in our abilities but there is only so much market share you can take in any one category, so we are actively looking for an acquisition to diversify into other categories,” Watts reveals. 

Ingredients for success 

When it comes to being successful, meanwhile, Watts recommends following four key principles: commitment, sustainability, relationships and trust. 

“Without these, there is no basis to any long-term business in any industry, but especially ours [produce],” he points out. 

“It’s very easy to be a busy fool by chasing business just for the sake of it. But our growth has come from never taking on something that we can’t handle because when that happens things can go wrong very quickly, which can easily lead to letting down clients and suppliers, and that’s not what Vidafresh is about.” 

Indeed, Watts says VIDAfresh’s ethos is to understand its clients’ needs, which means once it makes a commitment the company stands by that agreement. That said, he acknowledges that any business needs to be sustainable for all parties.

“Otherwise, the relationship won’t last,” Watts stresses. “And it’s relationships that make the fresh produce industry work. What’s more, relationships must be based on trust and that can take time to build.

“However, we do recognise that there are things that can happen that are out of anyone’s control but it’s how you deal with difficult situations that counts,” adds Watts. “You need to be proactive, not reactive to problems and challenges because they are a constant when dealing with fresh produce. But with strong relationships, trust and understanding problems are much easier to solve.”

Fortunately for VIDAfresh, the team behind the relatively young company has been working with some of the same growers for much longer than the company has been established. The reason for that, says Watts, is down to the solid relationships and trust that the team has forged with its growers over several years.

Adapting to change

Building and maintaining relationships with its clients and suppliers also has enabled VIDAfresh to acquire a deep insight and a better understanding of all businesses involved in the supply chain. As such, Watts claims VIDAfresh can focus on what it needs to do in order to bring its clients and suppliers closer together.

“We add value by having a very simple business model that makes the ‘cost chain’ or supply chain as short as possible,” Watts notes. “We aim to be as direct as possible so as to reduce costs and to add shelf life to the produce. 

“This allows us to operate with a very small team compared to the volume of business that we do which, in turn, also allows us to not only be highly competitive but it gives us the ability to adapt our business to meet our clients’ individual requirements and expectations.”  

Of course, being involved in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry means VIDAfresh never stops looking at ways to do things better and to operate more effectively to remain ahead of the curve. 

To that end, the company continues to work very closely with growers and leading seed houses to help develop new retail and processing fruit varieties. At the same time, the business is committed to developing and designing new packaging, in addition to reducing shipping, transport and distribution costs.

The end goal, concludes Watts, is to help drive the businesses of its clients, growers and, indeed, VIDAfresh.

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