This year’s Wholesale Market Tour at the upcoming London Produce Show and Conference 2019 will offer the opportunity to visit one of the capital city’s finest fresh produce wholesaling destinations: either New Covent Garden Market (NCGM) located in Nine Elms, Southwest London; or New Spitalfields Market in Leyton, East London. Here is an overview of what attendees can expect on the morning of Friday June 7.
New Covent Garden Market
Those joining the tour of New Covent Garden Market (NCGM) will be brought up to speed with the historic facility’s £200 million redevelopment project, underway since 2016.
“We are excited to be able to provide a tour again now that the new market is taking shape,” explains Zeenat Anjari, business development manager at Covent Garden Market Authority, who will be hosting the visit from 06.00am until 10.00am.
“Come and see The Food Quarter in progress in London! Attendees will be able to witness how the area has changed over the last couple of years, and the progress that has been made.
“Specifically within the market, we will visit the new Food Exchange building, which is NCGM’s hub for small businesses involved in food and technology,” Anjari continues.
“In the future, the ground floor of this building will house the Flower Market too, but, at the moment, this space is serving as an interim distribution unit where multi-million pound catering distributors are operating temporarily.”
After visiting The Food Exchange and one of the temporary catering distributor units, the tour will continue to The Buyer’s Walk, where visitors will gain a glimpse into the traditional activity of face-to-face primary wholesaling.
From there, attendees will take a peek at the new buildings under construction in the South Vehicle Car Park, before moving onto the temporary Flower Market via the Mixed Recycling Facility. The tour will conclude with breakfast back at The Food Exchange.
“If anyone has any particular needs, we are very happy to make sure that attendees make the connections they need,” adds Anjari. “Also, wear robust shoes and wrap up warmly as it will be cold, and then we can go into the fridges, too. Feel free to take photos and tag us on social media @MarketFood.”
NCGM sees tonnes of seasonal produce pass through the site each night. Regarded to be London’s original fresh food market, NCGM dates back to Medieval times, when it first operated on its original site where Covent Garden now stands in central London.
“NCGM is the place behind every great florist, restaurateur, pop-up restaurant, food truck and eating out place that you’ve ever loved,” Anjari comments. “Come and learn how NCGM is thriving and regenerating into a fit-for-purpose, modern wholesale market.”
New Spitalfields Market
Hosted by Jan Hutchinson, chief executive officer of Spitalfields Market Tenants’ Association, the tour of New Spitalfields Market, from 6.30am–11am, will traverse the vibrant market pavilion; stopping to meet and chat with various wholesalers, before winding up in the conference room for a breakfast with a question-and-answer session.
“The idea behind the tour is for people – that have an interest in the whole structure of the UK produce market, or those who are looking to promote certain lines into the UK – to visualise a different route for that produce outside of the major supermarkets; to witness the stream of produce that comes into London via the wholesale markets,” she explains.
“They will go away with a very good memory of this nighttime economy; of how the wholesale business continues to tick over and feed a large percentage of London. People will appreciate how customers come during the night to beat the traffic and to ensure fresh produce is available in the restaurants for people to eat the next day.”
New Spitalfields Market sits on a considerable 32-acre site in Leyton, housing up to 108 traders. What makes the facility stand out on the UK wholesale market scene is its focus on wholesaling.
“We are still very much a wholesale market, as opposed to a distribution hub,” Hutchinson points out. “We still have upwards of 2,000 customers coming each night for market trading. Other markets may be ‘wholesale markets’ but they house major players so it’s much more about distribution rather than customer trading.”
As such, Hutchinson says New Spitalfields is the biggest wholesale market in London. “That’s quite important,” she notes. “By comparison, New Covent Garden has a wholesale section but it’s not as big as ours. New Spitalfields is very much about wholesale; while our catering aspect is the minority.”
In early June, attendees on the tour can expect to see an array of fresh fruits and vegetables, or ‘The World Under One Roof’, according to Hutchinson. “It’ll be one of the busiest times of the year,” she points out, adding that trade is “good” currently, with the market “full of life.”
“The market will be very buzzing; there will be a lot of produce. It won’t be quite the height of the English season, but there will be a great deal of local produce, like English asparagus, strawberries and cucumbers.”
If any attendee is keen to meet with a particular trader or locate a specific produce item, the market will do its best to help.
“The tour follows a tried-and-tested format for health and safety reasons, but we do try to make it quite bespoke,” Hutchinson points out. “We try to find a personal connection. For example, if we have someone from South America who supplies blueberries to the UK, we’ll look for that fruit.”
Outside of the tour, Hutchinson and her team can point attendees in the right direction of wholesalers to speak with for future potential business opportunities. “We can make introductions, and the rest is down to them,” she says.
In addition, Hutchinson expects attendees will be interested by the talk of a future composite market that would merge and relocate New Spitalfields with Billingsgate fish market and Smithfield meat market on one site.
“It’s still very much in the discussion stage; everything that’s in public domain is as much as I know,” she states. “If they want to combine the three markets, which is still their ambition, they’d need to find a site, and that comes down to geography.”
As far as Spitalfields Market Tenants’ Association is concerned, the organisation still believes a merger is the right path to follow.
“Moving forward, with the industry the way it is, I think this has to be the solution,” she comments. “But we’re waiting to get the official opinion from the meat and fish traders, and until we hear from them there isn’t much we can say further.”
Overall, Hutchinson believes the wholesale format will continue to survive and thrive in the UK. “You could argue that wholesale is in a time warp, but it’s a different way of trading that’s face to face,” she explains.
“None of us have a crystal ball, but while there are more businesses, start-ups and independent pubs and restaurants, there will continue to be a demand for this level of service. Cash & Carry operators cannot specialise in the quantity and level of produce that you can find here.”
The LPS19 Wholesale Market Tours take place on Friday June 7, 2019.
There are just 10 spaces available on the New Spitalfields Market tour, and 40 places for the New Covent Garden Market Tour.
To register your interest, email firstname.lastname@example.org