FFD: the commercial distributor serving the likes of PepsiCo and Morrisons

When, along with a former business partner, Cory Greenhough launched Fridge Freezer Direct back in 2006, his idea was to sell domestic and commercial refrigeration units online. A mixed customer response, however, led Cory to take the bold decision to abandon the domestic portion of the business, turning his attention solely towards the commercial market. It was a good call. Armed with his IT experience, Cory found the demand needed to propel the business towards impressive growth – a trajectory on which it has continued for the last 16 years.

Now rebranded as FFD, the company supplies mission-critical equipment to a number of key industries. Hospitality, a sector still reeling from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, is among the company’s core markets, but it’s not the only audience in need of refrigeration. As Cory says: “We deal with everybody from the public consumer who wants a cooler for their home bar, through small cafeterias, shops, mini-marts, convenience stores, delicatessens, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and a whole myriad of public sectors – including the armed forces – to global blue-chip brands, such as PepsiCo.”

Understand the benefits
This rise is, in part, down to Cory’s pioneering approach, and a commitment to ecommerce in an industry where technological innovation is not always top of the agenda. “Compared to other industries, a lot of the brands, manufacturers and associations are somewhat behind the times,” he concedes. “The pandemic did a huge job of shining a light on that, exposing the distributors & manufacturers that weren’t able to modernise their operations.

“We need to be mindful that ecommerce is a highly competitive market, with a number of distributors selling the same brands.” How, then, has the group sought to distinguish itself from the field? The answer: a rigorous commitment to customer service. “We’re transparent and upfront in everything we do,” Cory comments. “If something goes wrong, we’ll put our hands up, own it, and work as hard as we possibly can to resolve it. We have a dedicated service department, and because we’ve been trading online for nearly two decades, we’ve gained the necessary expertise to know that it’s not just about shifting boxes. It’s about specifying the right product/s for individual customer requirements and creating an experience that, ultimately, brings them back to our door when they need to purchase their next piece of equipment.”

Increasingly crucial to this, is FFD’s ability to help its customers understand the environmental benefits of the products they choose – an area in which there remains plenty of room for improvement. “It often surprises me how little people question us about the energy efficiency of equipment,” Cory reflects. “Even prior to recent energy price increases, the equipment that we sell is not cheap to run, and these details can make a significant difference to our customers’ pockets. For instance, an open fronted chiller is about half as energy efficient as a doored cabinet of the same size. Our role is to educate our customers and help them to understand those benefits. Energy efficiency is a high priority at the moment and indeed will continue to be more so in the future as we all work towards a zero-carbon footprint, so it needs to be top of our priority list.”

Amid the difficulties of Covid-19, it’s been a pivotal couple of years for the FFD Group, and for Cory personally. Towards the end of 2021, he took the decision to buy out his partner from the business, before relocating to a brand-new premises. Again, it’s a decision with future growth in mind.

“The size of our new office and warehouse space is four times that of our old location,” he reveals. “With that, comes brand new equipment and internal systems – investments which are designed to make us more robust, and increase our resilience moving forward. As we develop our revenue, it will give us even greater budgets to play with, and the freedom to further invest, improve our processes, products, and support, and welcome bigger and better things.”

Optimistic buzz
Speaking of better things, in February of this year the company welcomed the launch of its new set of websites unifying the FFD brand. A project a long time in the works, and severely impacted by the pandemic, it remains a work in progress. As Cory explains, the team has been hard at work to tackle outstanding issues and iterate its design.

“The whole team has really had to knuckle down and chip away at the problems one by one,” Cory reflects, acknowledging the outstanding contribution of his team. He continues: “It’s made for a tough start to the year, but we’ve certainly kept our cool and remained focused on the issues at hand. I’ve been steering the ship amid both calm and choppy waters, but kudos to the team – they make the business what it is. I can’t understate my gratitude for their efforts.”

Underpinning the decision to launch the new websites, was a desire to integrate the various strands of the group’s business. This included the original Fridge Freezer Direct website, but also 24/7 Catering Supplies, a catering equipment website, and a further site, established for the sale of grease traps. “Obviously, all these micro-niches are targeting the same customer demographic,” Cory laughs. “If you need a piece of commercial refrigeration, you’ll likely need commercial catering equipment, and grease management of some sorts. We realized we need to pull everything back together under a unified brand, incorporated under FFD. Now, customers can shop across each segment of the business with a single basket. We’re already starting to reap the rewards of the new site/s, and by the end of the year, we expect to have really refined all its elements.”

Looking further into the future, there’s a buzz of optimism throughout FFD, having successfully navigated such an extraordinary period. “The team believes that we now have a really solid base to build a growth strategy from,” Cory insists. “The next step is to bring out our own range of products, including grease management solutions, some steel fabrication catering equipment, and more. It’s nothing we’ve done before, but we’re aiming to begin that in summer of next year. All in all, things are looking very promising. We are financially sound with a solid platform to build upon and I believe it’s going to be onward and upwards from here.”