An ambitious North Wales food wholesaler is planning a major expansion into England’s North West and West Midlands in the NewYear.
Gwynedd-based Harlech Foodservice Ltd are taking aim at targets across the border from their new Chester offices and depot and have appointed a globe-trotting executive to spearhead their drive for growth.
Matt Flynn, who has managed olive oil shipments across the Mediterranean, tuna canning in the Indian Ocean and food purchasing in the Netherlands for food giant Prince’s, is Harlech’s new Head of Purchasing and Marketing.
The 41-year-old leads a ten-strong team with an office at Chester Business Park and a distribution centre at the Chester West Employment Park, just off the city’s Sealand Road.
Matt, originally from Barrow, in Cumbria, comes with an impressive CV having worked for global mining colossus Anglo America before switching to the food sector where his job with Liverpool-based Prince’s took him across Europe and to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
For the last four years he has been Purchasing Director with Cotswold-based food innovation company Green Gourmet Ltd, who develop and manufacture bespoke products for global airlines, UK foodservice and retail.
He said: “Harlech is a very different kind of business – I was managing 200 products, but this is more like 4,000, so this is a bigger enterprise and a bigger challenge.
“The most attractive thing was the idea of growing the business geography, developing a new team and launching the Chester branch.
“Despite the hospitality sector staging a strong recovery from Covid-19 lockdowns, through demand created by UK staycations, there are still a number of headwinds we are fronting into.
“In the face of a perfect storm of supply chain issues that have been well documented in the media, I’m creating a cross-business task force in collaboration with the Leadership team, to mitigate current and forecast issues.
“My longer-term plan is to focus on providing excellent service for our entire customer base and to optimise our range giving people what they need, when they need it, at the right price.
“I and the new Chester/Welsh team are embarking on a number of innovative and challenging projects as part of our own build back better initiative.
“Our geography in North Wales means we are perfectly placed to service the tourism trade, who can use our website to order food right up until 10pm for next-day delivery.
“But to expand into the North West and Midlands, which forms part of our future strategy, we need a depot here in the Chester area, close to the M6 corridor.
“I’m a few months into my new tenure and am well on the way to building a world class team, perfectly located in the heart of Chester, allowing our new office to be a business hub where sales people can meet with customers and purchasing with key supply partners.
“My vision is about being long-term and strategic, rather than just short-term and operational and that’s one of the things that attracted me to the job.”
It’s a challenge but Matt takes them in his stride – he’s climbed some of the world’s highest peaks in the Himalayas, Andes, Alps and Africa’s Atlas range as part of various expeditions in his spare time.
His first job after graduating from university in Lancashire was with Anglo-American Minerals and he spent over three years with them at the UK’s second biggest granite quarry, at Coalville, in Leicestershire, which processed 20,000 tons of stone a day, shipped out on 750 lorries and two trains.
He switched to the food industry with Prince’s, first as a buyer for their multi-million-pound olive oil business, which took him to Spain, Italy and Greece, and then he moved to Port Louis, Mauritius, as Purchasing Manager at one of the world’s most technologically advanced canning operations.
There he was responsible for buying in steel for cans, olive oil, spring water and labelling for 190 million tins of tuna a year before returning to Rotterdam as Senior Buyer for European bottled and canned goods, dealing with the big Continental retailers.
Prince’s wanted him to come back to their headquarters at the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool but Matt had just met wife to be Ervie, from the Philippines, and the couple took a seven-month break there, living in a bamboo hut on the beach.
He returned to a job with Green Gourmet as Head of Purchasing and was with them for seven years, the last four as Purchasing Director, before joining Harlech.
He said: “Harlech are very ambitious and as we build back better and further strengthen our growing team, everything is heading in the right direction and I think the time is right for a company like this.”