PLANS to revitalise the Scottish Wholesale Association and place renewed focus on training, building business, lobbying and legislation through greater collaboration, consultation and communication have been unveiled with members – wholesalers and suppliers – urged to get involved by helping shape the organisation’s strategic vision for the future.

Speaking at an event in Glasgow, SWA chief executive Colin Smith said: “We are going forward with a clear focus on making our industry an attractive one to work in and highlighting a distribution channel that provides opportunities for businesses and their people.

“The SWA wants to work with our members to create a legacy that helps inspire the next generation of wholesalers and gets the message cross that wholesale is not just about shifting boxes,” he said. “We are the wheels of the food and drink industry and keep it on the move.

“But we’re more than that – our members are also the information providers, the advisers to the independent retailer, the pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants. Those customers look to their wholesalers for help, advice and for ideas on how to develop their businesses.”

Designed to bring the Scottish wholesale industry and stakeholders together to network and build stronger business relationships, the event at Hampden Park invited wholesalers and suppliers to share their own ideas for building a stronger trade association around three pillars: training, business building, and lobbying and legislation.

Smith said that the creation of a new Training Academy would enhance skills within the wholesale sector, raise standards and promote wholesale as a viable career path. “Nurturing talent and providing the relevant training represents the biggest return on investment in our industry – we want to enable all wholesalers to train, retain and attract the people who are future leaders and the lifeblood of the sector.

“We already have a successful mentoring programme so we plan to develop that and also want to forge strong links youth training agency Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) which aims to bridge the gap between industry and education. We need to show young people of all levels of educational attainment that wholesale is a viable destination and plays a vital role in keeping Scotland’s biggest industry – food and drink – on the move.”

Touching on the trade association’s principles of collaboration, consultation and communication, Smith continued: “These principles – the three Cs – are designed to ensure that our members, their interests, their needs and their future success are all protected under membership of the SWA. So please tell us what you want from us – help us shape our strategic vision, tell us what training you need and how we can do more to help you grow and develop your business.

“We are already collaborating with other trade associations across a number of issues and enjoy excellent relationships with the with the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scotland Food & Drink and SGF, for example, and sit on a number of industry groups addressing issues that affect our members including the deposit return scheme (DRS) implementation advisory group and the new national board that has been created to oversee the delivery of an ambitious plan to boost food tourism in Scotland by £1 billion.

“We are also working with key stakeholders to help deliver Ambition 2030, the Scottish Government-supported initiative to double Scotland’s food and drink turnover to £30 billion by 2030.”

The event also heard from Tanya Pepin, director of The Wholesale Company (TWC) who is conducting comprehensive research into the Scottish wholesale market on behalf of the SWA. The research aims to highlight the importance of the wholesale channel as a route to market and show a breakdown of performance and opportunities for retail/foodservice/on-trade/off-trade/delivered/cash & carry/click & collect across different product categories and regions.

“What sets us apart is that our members are the owners and managers of their businesses which means that the SWA is in direct collaboration, consultation and communication with the decision-makers, the influencers and the leaders in our industry,” said Smith. “This important research will help cement the Scottish wholesale industry’s position of strength within the food and drink industry.

“We are an industry worth £2.9 billion, employing 6,000 people but we need input from our members – wholesalers and suppliers – to ensure that our trade association remains strong, vibrant and relevant. A stronger association gives us a stronger, louder voice and a much bigger opportunity for growth and change.”