Managing the staples from Naples

Aztek Logistics’ flexible supply chains can help manage the cost-of-living crisis

High-end accredited logistics providers are continuing to play a key role in helping contain inflationary supply chain prices on everyday staple foods, as the cost of living crisis continues to bite into everyday household budgets.

With Brexit’s Bucatini bounce and the pandemic pedalling pasta panic buying, sales of the so-called ‘staples from Naples’ have remained steady and buoyant despite global price rises and the war in Ukraine, Europe’s wheat basket.

Contrary to gloomy economic forecasters comparing post-Brexit UK plc to a ‘cork being thrown around a global ocean’ the logistics sector has doubled down on delivering competitive advantage during this perfect economic storm.

This has been achieved by forward-thinking logistics providers optimising their customers’ supply chain and helping to maintain Britain’s love affair with authentic Italian food, as illustrated by Specialist Foods, one of the UK’s biggest importers of pasta, continuing to experience record demand for the wheat-based staple.

From lasagne to linguini, fettucine to fusilli, demand for southern Italian pasta from the Naples Gragnano region has continued beyond the high watermark of the panic-buying months of the first lockdown, with orders still not returning to pre-pandemic levels for the Hertfordshire-based business, which is the UK arm of the prestige brand Pasta Garofalo.

The business, which also trades through the Gustalia name and imports coffee, rice and oils, as well as pesto and pasta sauces, continues to ship a wide range of pasta varieties into the country in 17 tonne containers ready for distribution to the UK’s retail sector, including independent outlets, food wholesalers and prestige online grocer, Ocado.

The business, which has more than 25 years of food import experience and is exacting in its delivery of a wide range of Italian food products, has forged a long-term collaborative partnership with Aztek Logistics to manage its UK storage and onward distribution in the UK.

Part of the Pallet-Track network, Aztek Logistics recently re-secured two new major industry accolades – the British Retail Consortium (BRC) AA Standard storage and distribution accreditation and the Organic Food Federation certification – both of which were achieved after extensive and far-reaching audits into its supply chain practices and procedures to guarantee the highest industry standards.

Aztek’s clients have also been attracted by its access to dynamic and flexible storage facilities in and around its Letchworth Garden City location, close to Specialist Foods’ head office.

The alternative for a food manufacturer or importer would be to take on its own warehouse with all the fixed costs that involves, including being committed to up to a 10-year lease, or freehold purchase, whether they filled it or not.

The FORS Gold-accredited operation has made a number of strategic investments across the business, including the opening of a fifth warehouse, taking its storage space to 140,000 sq. ft to accommodate demand from food businesses.

Aztek’s operations manager Duncan Pannell said: “Specialist Foods is a great example of a strong collaborative partnership which is driven by cutting edge communication. Whatever the crisis – panic buying or cost of living – we can flex the supply chain to optimise efficiencies and if not reduce costs, at least maintain them at a more competitive level.

“Specialist Foods uses a 3PL model which works on the basis that the client only pays for the amount of stock it is holding at any one time, unless they have made a space commitment, namely the reserving and paying for space for when they might need it.

“In this way, as their stocks increase and decrease through seasonal demands and promotions, they are running a lean operation with ‘flexible walls’ while we manage the risk of monitoring the flexing of stock levels by taking on extra space – which can be challenging – or extra business as required.

“This is why we try to understand our clients’ business requirements from the outset, so we react efficiently for our mutual benefit. On top of this, you then get the synergies of your products being delivered as part of a mixed load with other clients’ products going to the same or on-route destination.

“After working with any client for a period, any seasonal adjustments become predictable and allows us to fit other clients around these – barring promotions which could be held at any time, staple foods such as pasta always peak leading up to Christmas and Easter, and the stock would also build prior to the continental August shutdown,” added Duncan.

Managing director of Specialist Foods, Mal Pullan, said: “Aztek’s organic accreditation was an important factor – the partners we chose had to tick that box.

“In Italy we have achieved the BRC higher accreditation and we also have recognition from the Soil Association, so recognised standards of high-quality storage were essential.

“Aztek has built a brand-new warehouse close by, which was perfect for our requirements. They are also very easy to deal with – I have a dedicated team of account handlers with whom I maintain daily contact.”

Managing director of Aztek Logistics, Stuart Charter, said: “Through the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis we have maintained a good relationship with Specialist Foods based on trust and expertise in the food market that can flex to the demands of not only securing supplies during a global crisis, but providing that level of response while maintaining the highest standards.”

For more information on Aztek Logistics, visit www.azteklogistics.co.uk or search for Aztek Logistics on social media.

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