From its roots as a chilled logistics specialist with a single client, Culina Group now comprises of seven uniquely specialist UK food and drinks logistics businesses. Culina Logistics, Great Bear, IPS, CML, Morgan McLernon, Warrens Group and Robson’s all combine to provide an impressive portfolio of 3PL services.
Culina Group employs over 6,500 people and currently has over 60 strategically located sites across the UK and Ireland, providing more than 8 million sq. ft. of warehousing space and operating a fleet of more than 1000 trucks and 2,000 trailers. Thomas van Mourik, CEO of the Culina Group, speaks to Warehouse and Logistics News.
What are your best-known products and services?
I’m proud to say that Culina is now an extremely diverse logistics organisation. Each of our businesses continue to build on their already strong identities and reputations within their specialist field.
We have Culina Logistics, the foundation business within Culina Group. It’s a market leader in UK chilled shared user logistics working with major food and drink clients many of which are household names.
As you may know, in 2016 we acquired Great Bear, a highly established ambient 3PL with a superb nationwide network including unique state of the art facilities at Port Salford and Markham Vale. We have now successfully integrated Great Bear into the wider Group and are providing extensive services to established FMCG businesses.
Our IPS business provides a unique added value offering for our client base. IPS provides the most extensive pool of contract packing equipment and expertise available in the UK. IPS is now widely integrated and embedded within client operations right across our group network.
In 2017 we acquired CML who are the market leader in chilled logistics to the discount retailers, and announced a joint venture agreement with Morgan McLernon, the largest haulage operation in Northern and Southern Ireland.
This year we announced our joint venture with Warrens Group enabling us to become dominant in the baked/morning goods marketplace. We also acquired Robson’s of Spalding who operate almost exclusively in the fresh produce logistics sector providing time critical services to growers predominantly for supply to discount retailers.
All of our individual businesses focus on their own areas of 3PL expertise and when required we dovetail them into our other businesses to meet the individual needs of particular clients.
Through evolution, acquisition and joint venture, we have and are continuing to establish a really strong group of profitable businesses.
Which market sectors and countries are your customers in? Which ones are growing fastest?
As a Group we work with over 600 customers from all around the world, but we are focussed purely on handling their UK and Ireland 3PL requirements. We aren’t looking to operate in other parts of Europe. Many of our customers are growing rapidly and we work with them closely to facilitate their increasing logistics requirements.
Who are your major customers and what do you do for them?
We operate specialist ambient and chilled logistics services for a range of FMCG clients and we deliver into all major retailers. We handle a huge range of household name brands through our operations on a daily basis.
Indeed it would probably be true to say that every household in the UK currently has at least one item that at some stage has been distributed by Culina Group.
How do your products benefit your customers’ businesses?
We tailor logistics solutions for each individual client to meet the needs of their particular distribution operation. We take the logistics pressure out of their business so that our clients are able to specialise on their core activities.
Wherever we can we find ways to improve service levels, to improve support, to increase the value that we can provide within their supply chain through our services such as IPS. Our ongoing aim is to continue operating as the market leader in food and drink logistics by providing the best possible service to our customers.
Why should customers choose you as their main supplier in your area?
We are always looking to provide cutting edge solutions for our clients, wherever possible adding value and value for money within the services that we are providing. We have a philosophy at Culina Group that we call – “client immersion”. Whenever we work with a client we actively look to “get under their skin” and find out their exact needs. We really dig deep, working with our clients throughout the relationship to develop a thorough understanding of their individual requirements in an ever-changing marketplace.
Our passion for development and innovation ensures that Culina Group remain at the forefront of UK logistics. We provide really solid solutions that enable us to maintain extraordinarily long term partnerships.
What’s business been like in the past year? How have conditions changed over this period and how have you reacted?
We have continued to follow our strategic direction of growing to the next level through acquisition, joint venture, and continued investment. Our recent growth has been impressive both in terms of scale and in scope.
2018 has been another landmark year for us at Culina Group with our growth trajectory increasing in spectacular fashion.
What were the business highlights for you in the last 12 months?
We were really pleased that Culina Logistics won a major UK Operator Accolade recently at the TCS&D Awards. Winning the Temperature Controlled Storage Operator of the Year award was recognition for the hard work we have put in this year.
Our turnover has grown consistently and steadily since we began in 1994. As recently as 2015 Culina Group stood as a £250 million food and drink logistics provider. However, this year particularly, with the new businesses that are now part of Culina Group, the operations that are now in play at Port Salford and Markham Vale, and the contract wins and renewals that we have achieved – steady has become spectacular. Now as we enter our 25th year, our turnover stands at £600 million. It has more than doubled in the past three years!
What’s been your most outstanding recent project?
One outstanding recent Culina Group project has been the introduction and implementation of our spectacular new state of the art Great Bear distribution complex at Markham Vale, Chesterfield. Markham Vale is a vast cutting edge logistics facility consisting of two superbly positioned depots with a cumulative warehousing space of nearly 1,000,000 sq. ft.
How have you fine-tuned your offering in the last 12 months and why?
We are constantly fine-tuning our offering to the customer by actively listening to their requirements and tailoring our service accordingly. Although we are a large business we are agile enough to adapt to our customers needs as well as ever changing market conditions.
What recent enhancements have you made in customer service?
Our customers’ needs are simple – safety, security, reliability, and efficiency – combined with value for money. They request that we deliver their stock on time every time, and in perfect condition, whilst also having the flexibility and facility to track and amend orders if required. At Culina Group we are constantly reevaluating our services and operations to introduce ongoing added value improvements. Our customers trust us to deliver and we don’t let them down.
What new products have you brought out?
The acquisition this year of Warrens Group and Robson’s have enabled us to expand our operations into two new highly specialised sectors, Baked Goods and Fresh Produce.
These new specialist logistics services are already helping to further strengthen Culina Group’s relationships with some of our clients.
What factors do you see affecting your business in the coming year? How will you turn these into opportunities?
There are some factors that could affect our business such as the driver shortage and Brexit. Although, it’s important to remember that most businesses in our sector are currently facing these very same challenges.
At Culina Group we work hard to ensure that we fully embrace any challenges we face, thereby enhancing our reputation as a high quality operator.
Are you planning to branch into any new areas, target new customers and take on more people?
We are always looking to expand the depth and range of services that we provide. Personally, I am continually investigating and reviewing new opportunities for acquisition, joint venture and investment so who knows what the future holds! We actively work with new customers on a regular basis and as the business continues to grow, naturally our team will expand also.
Are you investing in new premises and extra staff? What about staff development and training?
We will of course be continuing to invest in the business, recruiting new people, expanding our network, and investing in additional fleet and resources.
In terms of staff development we are committed to internal promotion and development. We have put in place fantastic training and development resources across the Group, which open up massive opportunities to all of our staff.
We are also proud to hold Investors in People Silver Accreditation Status demonstrating our public commitment to people satisfaction at work and employee development.
Are you involved in any major trade shows or other industry events over the next year?
We generally don’t exhibit at trade shows however we certainly attend and support our customers and suppliers who do. We will also be involved in select industry events throughout the year.
What big news from Culina Group can our readers look forward to seeing in Warehouse & Logistics News in 2019?
There will be lots for us to shout about next year, especially as it is our 25th Anniversary!
And finally, if you had to sum up your company in a tweet what would it be?
It’s all about people at Culina Group. We have great infrastructure and resources, but we know that it’s our people who make the biggest difference as we move forward as a business. With great people you have a great business.