A proud part of the Bidfood group since 2011, Bidfood Baltics has worked tirelessly to expand its activities in the years since in order to meet the changing needs of its many customers in the region
Readers of this magazine will be well aware of the journey taken by Bidfood over the years. Originally known as BFS Group and owned by Booker Group, the company was sold to Bidvest Group in May 1999, and subsequently went through several changes in identity, which included 3663, Bidvest Foodservice and finally, in February 2016, Bidfood. While we at FoodChain have documented the company’s activities in several parts of the world in the past, one area we have not previously covered is its activities in the Baltic states.
“The company’s story in the Baltic region began in 1994 when it established operations in Lithuania,” begins Bidfood Baltics’ Chief Executive Officer, Ramunas Makutenas. “At the time, it existed as a small, local company trading in frozen fish products to the retail market, before entering into partnership with the Nowaco group in 1999. This allowed us to begin building a distribution network across the country, and later into Latvia and Estonia, one that helped increase the range of products we could offer and extend customer portfolio into tthe food service market.”
It was then, in 2011, that Nowaco |Baltic officially became part of the Bidvest Group, taking the name Bidvest Lietuve before ultimately becoming Bidfood Baltics in 2016. As one would expect, joining the global Bidfood family helped usher in a renewed period of investment in the business, including the opening of new warehouses, the establishing of a dedicated Customer Service Department and the construction of a fish processing workshop in Latvia. “Being a part of the Bidfood group has allowed us to better focus our activities in the food service sector, where we serve some 3000 customers and which today accounts for around 70 per cent of our revenues,” Ramunas enthuses. “In addition, we also are the beneficiaries of the vast degree of experience, know-how and expertise that other areas of the group have gained over the years, and we have been able to learn and identify new ways of improving our own activities, which has resulted in strong growth over the last six years in particular.”
New Kaunas depot
The product range carried by Bidfood Baltics today totals almost 2000 brand names and covers a wide variety of categories, including fish, meat, seafood, potato products, fruit and vegetable, dairy products and frozen baked goods. As well as brand names, the company also provides private label goods to supermarket chains, which is a segment of its activities that continues to grow at a steady pace.
“Over the last six years we have invested considerably in the business in order to both facilitate the level of growth we have experience and also to maintain the high level of service excellence we have become known for,” Ramunas explains. “Part of this investment has involved the modernisation of our fleet of 25 trucks to include temperature controlled thermal transportation equipment. This allows us to transport and deliver a mix of frozen, chilled and ambient products at the same time, providing a huge degree of convenience for customers who may previously have sourced goods from a number of different suppliers.”
Equally as vital as the trucks themselves is the volume of goods that the fleet can distribute to the company’s customers. This is an issue currently being addressed through the construction of a brand-new depot in the city of Kaunas, where the company is based. Costing approximately six million euros, work commenced in February 2018, with the 6700-square metre project due to be completed by February 2019. “Such has been our growth that we have simply outgrown our existing depot, and this new facility will provide us with the ability to double our depot capacity,” Ramunas adds. “Once complete, the new depot will allow us to handle around 3700 pallets of frozen produce at any one time, which is an increase from the current amount of 2200, while also increasing the number of ambient pallets from 400 at present to 2200. This is a massive increase and one that will allow us to build a profile in this range of products that is just as strong as that which we now have in the frozen food arena.”
With only a matter of weeks remaining in the company’s current financial year at the time in which we spoke to Ramunas, he was understandably positive about what the final numbers are likely to show once revealed in the summer. “With the steps we have taken in the food service category in Lithuania and Latvia, as well the work we continue to do in the retail market, we are optimistic that this past year will go down as being one of the best in the company’s history,” he states. “It is important to remember, however, that there is still much more that we want to achieve, and to do in order to gain greater profitability and provide us with the best springboard into 2019 as possible.
“In addition to investing in our fleet and our new depot, we will continue to improve efficiencies throughout our operations, improving on our service offering and increasing the range of products that we can supply. We are already very, very good at what we do as a supplier to the food service and retail markets, but I truly believe that with the new depot we will get closer to perfection, and that makes the future a very bright and exciting place for Bidfood Baltics.” D