supplier Under the spotlight

by Diane lane , Thursday 26th June 2003 12:33
Q What do you love most about the industry?
A
The food service industry is a dynamic and vibrant place to work. I've been involved with UBF Foodsolutions for many years and have a real passion for the business. As an organisation we are at the forefront of product innovation and I'm proud of the portfolio we offer to the catering market.

Q Where were you before you joined UBF Foodsolutions?
A
I joined Caterplan, now UBF Foodsolutions, some 18 years ago. My father worked in the business so I grew up with the brands - so you could say it's in my blood. Apart from a short period in banking at the start of my career, I've worked for the business man and boy.

Q Would you describe yourself as a foodie?
A
Yes, definitely. I love working and playing in the industry and am passionate about all aspects of food. Here in the UK we lead the way with food innovation and I am always interested in seeing emerging trends in Europe and worldwide.

Q Caterplan was an established name, so why change it?
A
The name-change to UBF Foodsolutions signifies a major change in the way we operate. The Caterplan name had strong connotations with its brand portfolio but the new name is much more than that. We are now part of a global food service business which will bring significant changes in the way we respond to the needs of our customers with product innovation, research and development from our worldwide operation.

Q What difference does it really make - isn't it just rebranding?
A
We are a very different business than we were post-merger of Van den Berg Foods and Caterplan two years ago. We are now a separate division dedicated to food service on a worldwide basis as opposed to the food service division which was an offshoot of the UK retail business; we can deliver a better service and better value to the industry.

Q You now describe yourself as a global organisation, but do your UK customers benefit?
A
As part of a worldwide operation we can draw on the experience of our counterparts in other countries and see trends developing not only in Europe but also around the world. Consumer insight drives a lot of what we do and our retail businesses have huge resources to find out why consumers choose products. By having access to this information we are able to keep abreast of current trends and provide our customers with the right products to meet consumer demands.

Q What do UBF Foodsolutions' own chefs do?
A
We have a dedicated team of chefs headed up by our culinary services manager Ray Lorimer. Its role is to provide the culinary input into the development of new products. It also offers direct support to customers on menu development and works alongside them, taking into account their needs and any difficulties in order to see what solutions are required.

Q Nutrition and healthy food is currently big on the agenda, particularly in school meals. Is the company doing anything to address these issues?
A
I'm involved in the steering committee for the Food and Drink Federation, so we're very up to speed on all that. Unilever has its own health institute, which provides a valuable support to our business by advising us on ways to improve our products. Of course, one of the current issues is salt content, and as a food manufacturer we have a duty to reduce salt levels in our products. It's something we have taken into account and will continue to do so.

Q Will Knorr continue to sponsor the National Chef of the Year competition?
A
Absolutely! UBF Foodsolutions took on the sponsorship in 1996 and wouldn't have got into it if it was just a case of doing it once. It's a key national competition that encourages excellence in the industry. Working in association with the Craft Guild of Chefs we're able to offer professional chefs a first-class competition that's highly regarded in the industry as an accolade they aspire to.

Q Sous-vide products haven't had a great image. Why is that?
A
When sous-vide products first surfaced in the UK 15-20 years ago there was some negative feeling in Europe due to a lack of understanding about the process - there were instances where correct temperature control was not used during the cooking process, resulting in poor-quality products. We acquired a sous-vide business in Thomas Morel Foods and we openly and actively promote products as sous-vide as it now offers food service a way of introducing high-quality dishes with minimum effort.

Q A lot of food companies have a celebrity endorsement. Is this something you'd like?
A
It's something we've talked about, but I'm not convinced it holds much credibility in the catering sector the way it does in the consumer market. That said, we do work closely with Patak's. The relationship with Patak's came about because we wanted to move into the ethnic market to give the traditional caterer the opportunity to cash in on the growth in popularity of Indian food. As we didn't have the expertise we formed a partnership with Patak's, which is the UK's leading authentic Indian food manufacturer. The joint branding adds a stamp of authenticity and credibility to the Knorr Patak's range.

Q What kind of food do you enjoy?
A
I eat anything and everything, but Indian food is a real favourite of mine. I've recently eaten at the Cinnamon Club and at Gordon Ramsay's. Colleagues of mine were very impressed with Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. We're fortunate to have such an excellent range of restaurants in London and throughout the UK, and I'm lucky that my job allows me to enjoy eating at a wide range of establishments.

Q Do you spend much time cooking at home?
A
I like to, but in reality I don't get much time - in fact I can't remember the last time I did. When I do it's an all-day experience using every pot and pan in the kitchen!

Q And finally, how about Marmite - do you love it or hate it?
A
I'd never tasted it before joining the company, and I have to admit my first reaction to it was not favourable. But I've been converted, and regularly have it on my toast - I love it!

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