Members’ News

August 2023

Blue Apple joins CH&CO’s workplace portfolio #

Workplace caterer, Blue Apple, has announced that it is to join forces with independent caterer and Royal Warrant holder, CH&CO.  

The merger expands CH&CO’s workplace portfolio, strengthening its positioning in the marketplace. Blue Apple joins CH&CO alongside its existing workplace businesses Gather & Gather and Vacherin. Brian Allanson and Ruston Toms, co-founders of Blue Apple, will continue to manage the business and the brand and ethos will remain.    

Blue Apple operates across the South East, home counties, Midlands and South West at 58 workplace locations, with a turnover of £14million and employing nearly 300 people. Blue Apple has an extensive and varied range of workplace clients within its portfolio. 

With aligned cultures and values, best practice will be shared across the expanded workplace estate and Blue Apple will gain the extra support that a larger organisation like CH&CO supplies, especially from its support teams and the learning and development opportunities for team members. 

Ruston Toms commented: “We’re all super excited about joining CH&CO and believe that the synergies created will benefit our amazing teams, clients and customers. This strategic move will combine resources, expertise and passion to elevate our already high standards to the next level. Our brand and our PIPS values of Passion, Integrity, Pride and Sustainability will remain.” 

Bill Toner, CH&CO’s CEO, added, “A very warm welcome to the Blue Apple team. Brian Allanson and Ruston Toms have built a great business over the last 25 years and we’re delighted they are joining CH&CO. The Blue Apple business is a great addition to our portfolio of workplace brands and we’re excited about the opportunities this merger provides all team members and our partners.”  

Is the foodservice equipment sector ready for the new industrial revolution? #

The FEA is preparing for changes brought on by the government’s digital strategy

Embracing digital technology has the potential to be as transformative to UK manufacturers as the industrial revolution. Following the launch of the UK government’s digital strategy, the Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) is aiming to support its members as they adopt these emerging technologies.

The digital strategy is a set of broad initiatives aimed at developing new tech industries including building broadband infrastructure, improving education and training in digital skills, aiding the financing of the UK’s tech ecosystem as well as promoting the adoption of new technologies to enhance productivity.

“Many of these new technologies are already quite familiar, in particular the addition of online connectivity to commercial foodservice equipment,” says Andy Threlfall, policy and technical director of the FEA. “But it’s clear that these are just the first steps of a journey that will have profound effects on the way all businesses operate in the future.”

The rollout of 5G broadband is a vital part of this strategy. It will make the adoption of advanced digital technology by industries and business sectors far easier, as it will allow them to manage the large amounts of data required for systems like cloud computing, AI and machine learning.

“This next generation of digital technology will have an enormous effect both on the foodservice equipment industry and the foodservice industry as a whole,” says Andy.  “Access to and analysis of data created by many different sectors will help to create new avenues for efficiency and increase productivity.” 

As well as this the digital strategy will have many advantages for businesses looking to meet carbon net zero targets, which is likely to be a major driver for the uptake of these systems over the next decade.

“The foodservice equipment industry has shown that it isn’t afraid of embracing the potential for new technologies, and if it proceeds as expected the government’s digital strategy will have widespread ramifications for the sector,” says Andy. “The FEA aims to continue to facilitate the conversations the industry needs to have in order for it to be ready to meet the challenges of implementing new technology and changing legislation.”

The FEA is looking into developing training programs and running seminars aimed at helping members exploit the potential of the digital strategy.  The Association will also continue to work with the government and EFCEM (the European Federation of Catering Equipment Manufacturers), as well as other partner organisations in Europe and around the world, to ensure the industry remains a central part of the conversation going forward.

The Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) is the independent, authoritative voice of the foodservice equipment industry, representing nearly 200 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment - from utensils to full kitchen schemes.  For more information on FEA visit 

Dual-branded Costcutter/Bargain Booze store delivers 48% sales increase #

Bestway Retail, which launched its innovative ‘store within a store’ model last year, bringing together two of the UK’s favourite household convenience brands, Costcutter and Bargain Booze, sees its Bolton dual-branded store deliver record sales of 48%+ since opening in March this year.

Customer footfall has dramatically increased by 40%, chilled sales have doubled, and profitability has increased by 3% margin points driven by a new hot Food-To-Go offer. 

As a result, the store anticipates recouping the initial £250,000 investment within a relatively short period of 2.5 years, solidifying the profitability of the store.

The Bargain Booze section of the store now boasts over 750 SKUs of specialist beer, wines, and spirits which, according to shop owner, Kersheaup Vagadia, has had a big impact on sales, from the previous 500 SKUs.  The results speak for themselves - a notable 24% increase in alcohol sales now averaging an impressive £7,000 per week. This has been aided by a new range of ales and ‘low/no alcohol’ section.

He says:  “The hybrid implementation of the new Bargain Booze concept in store has yielded remarkable results for our store. With two prominent brands displayed above our door, we’ve witnessed a significant increase in footfall, not only gaining substantial numbers of customers but also an average basket spend increase of £2.20 per customer.”

The store conducted extensive research and analysis, working closely with the Store Development, Retail and Commercial Teams at Bestway Retail, to identify areas of strength and weaknesses in its old shop which involved breaking down sales by category, examining the shopping habits and preferences of customers.  This comprehensive process highlighted that the store had only tapped into a small portion of its local customer base, presenting the store with tremendous opportunity.  
Vagadia reinforces the value of applying this insight in underpinning the store format and customer offer: “We leveraged this valuable insight to design our ideal store, ensuring that each identified shopper need was addressed. Planning encompassed the inclusion of a dedicated fresh bakery, a well-curated hot food section, a convenient drinks-to-go area, a wide range of fresh produce and chilled products, and an expanded product selection throughout the store to exceed our competitors’ offers. It has really opened our eyes to what our customers want and given us a new perspective of how to run our business.”
The ‘hot food’ section has emerged as the most profitable department in the store, consistently achieving average margin of 38%. This success is reflected in weekly sales of £1300 which is a big increase from the previous store which was £150 per week. The expansion of Co-op Own Brand Products has further instilled confidence in the store’s customers, leading to increased sales. In particular, the chilled and fresh produce sales have tripled, with fresh meat and ready meals outperforming showing an impressive 270% increase.
Overall, the positive impact of increased footfall and introduction of a broader product range is evident across all categories. Despite the store’s unchanged square footage, the store has expanded its product range by an additional 18% SKU and this expansion, coupled with the influx of customers, has brought growth and success to the store.
Dawood Pervez, Managing Director at Bestway Wholesale said: "We are continuously investing in store formats to help our retailers redefine their stores to meet today’s shopper missions. Our dual branded stores are leading the way and we are delighted to work with such forward-thinking partners – the results are testament to the dedication and commitment of Vagadia”.
Jamie Davison, Retail Director at Bestway Retail, added: “Vagadia is a shining example of the entrepreneurs that are leading convenience. The results the store has achieved demonstrate our strengths in working closely in partnership with our retailers to deliver formats that drive both growth and profit for the retailer”.
To date Bestway Retail has completed 10 stores to its award-winning ‘store within a store concept’ and has a further 20 already in the pipeline and due to the significant interest received, Bestway Retail is planning to expand the concept and supply into areas of the UK that Bargain Booze hasn’t historically operated within.  

Home baking specialist reveals new releases for spooky season #

Products include cupcake cases, decorating icing, sprinkles and its first ever glow in the dark cupcake mix – a gloriously ghoulish line up for any Halloween celebration.

The UK’s number one home baking brand*(1) Dr. Oetker has expanded its product portfolio with its all-new frighteningly fabulous Halloween range for October 2023. 
The range contains numerous launches including, Dr. Oetker The Spooks of Halloween Baking Cases, The Spooks of Halloween Decorating Icing, The Spooks of Halloween Sprinkles and the Spooktacular Science Bake & Learn Glow in the Dark Icing Cupcake Mix. 
It also features Dr. Oetker’s first ever seasonal cake mix, the Spooktacular Science Bake & Learn Glow in the Dark Icing Cupcake Mix (MRRP: £2.75),an extension of its popular Spectacular Science range. The product offers hours of endless entertainment, where families can bake fun glow in the dark cupcakes, allowing bakers to explore a new avenue of baking they wouldn't have come across anywhere else, whilst still creating deliciously tasty bakes.  
Adding some excitement to customers’ bakes, are the Dr. Oetker The Spooks of Halloween Sprinkles (MRRP: £2.00) which allow home bakers to take their Halloween bakes to new heights, with pumpkin shaped sprinkles and seasonally inspired hundreds and thousands.
No Halloween bake would be complete without hand-drawn spiders, pumpkins or ghosts to set the scene and Dr. Oetker The Spooks of Halloween Decorating Icing (MRRP: £2.00) is versatile, easy to use and comes in a brand-new packaging which is fully recyclable, in line with Dr. Oetker's sustainability charter. 
And finally the Dr. Oetker The Spooks of Halloween Baking Cases (MRRP: £1.50) add a little something extra. Whilst ensuring bakers have the easiest experience creating their Halloween bakes, these cases come in traditionally Halloween based colours of black, orange and purple, and feature fearsomely adorable ghosts and pumpkins. 
These new themed products are perfect for using as an activity with kids to make their spooktacular creations, or even for adults looking to get into the spirit of All Hallows Eve with some wholesome childish fun. 
All products will be available in Tesco, Asda, Co-Op and Ocado from September 2023. 
Jen Johnson, Head of Marketing, Cake & Dessert at Dr. Oetker UK, said: “Our new Halloween range is a great addition to our baking range, as we’re constantly developing and aiming to find new ways to give our customers something fresh and exciting.
“Halloween is a key calendar date for us, as aside from Christmas, it’s the biggest over indexing week in the home baking calendar, with sales +60% higher than an average non-event week. The occasion itself is worth an incremental £4.3m(*2). A lot of this is driven by seasonal ranges, which are critical routes to success around key calendar dates. We can’t wait for these to hit the shelves and see how our customers use them to elevate their Halloween bakes to be even bigger and better than ever.”

For more information on Dr. Oetker Baking please visit

*1 - Source: Circana 52w/e 17th June 2023 Value Share of Total Market Cake Decorations, Ingredients and Sweet Mixes 
*2 Source: Circana 52 w/e 31 December 2022 

Vacherin marks its 20-year milestone by raising more than £22,000 for charity #

Vacherin has raised more than £22,000 through a special fundraising event to support the valuable work of Luminary Bakery.

The Vacherin London 20 charity spectacular was a core part of the London catering specialist’s 20th anniversary celebrations that brought together Vacherin’s team members, family, friends and clients.

More than 100 people took part, walking, running or jogging the 20km course (or parts of it) along the River Thames. The event started and finished at St Katharine Docks at one of Vacherin’s client sites, Clarksons, and on completion, everyone’s efforts were rewarded with celebratory drinks and barbecue.

In keeping with the ‘20th anniversary’ theme, the Vacherin team set itself the ambitious target of raising £20,000 for Luminary Bakery, a visionary organisation that is run by women to help women who have had social and economic disadvantage to build a better future for themselves.

Having exceeded the fundraising target it was with great pride that Vacherin’s Managing Director, Phil Roker, presented Alice Williams, the Founder of Luminary Bakery, with a cheque* at Vacherin’s Taste of Vacherin 20-year anniversary client event.

Phil Roker said: “What a fantastic fundraising event and a wonderful way to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Giving back has always been part of the Vacherin culture, so to be able to do so whilst marking our significant milestone was so uplifting for all the team. It was an absolute pleasure to hand the giant cheque to Alice Williams at our Taste of Vacherin event. Luminary Bakery is an amazing charity and we’re thrilled to continue to support them and their valuable work.  “I must thank all the team that made Vacherin London 20 happen, our client host Clarksons, and our supplier partners who sponsored the event – and of course an extra big thank you to everyone that took part and raised such an incredible amount. We’re known for being an energetic bunch, always up for a physical challenge, so who knows what we’ll pull out of the bag for our 25th anniversary… watch this space!”

Vacherin has been an active supporter of Luminary for nearly ten years and the fundraising included sponsorship for completing the Vacherin London 20 event plus a raffle with amazing prizes such as a night at The Ritz and dinner The Royal Opera House.

Vacherin London 20 was kindly supported by supplier partners including IFSE, Britvic, Smith and Brock, Ellis of Richmond, Evolve, Collins King, Off To Work and Hills Prospect.

*At the time of presenting the cheque to Luminary Bakery, as per the image, the total was £21,124.50. Since the presentation, the total has raised to £22,299.50.

Ten takeaways for better sustainability practice #

Nutritics recently hosted a roundtable for a group of senior executives from across the restaurant, pub, bar and contract catering world, bringing together leaders to talk frankly about their achievements in sustainability.

Nutritics wanted to understand where they see the opportunities for more progress in the move to a zero carbon industry, and hear their approaches to communicating initiatives and progress, both internally and externally.

There is a nervousness in many companies about how much, and when, to communicate their green credentials to the public. Even when consumers say they want more information, operators are understandably extremely fearful of greenwashing. There is a sense in some quarters that sustainability initiatives need to be completed before talking about them, even if that means sacrificing potential consumer goodwill by sharing news about their journey.

Greenhushing – failing to share progress on sustainability initiatives – presents a new risk for the sector. The candour with which participants shared their sustainability pain points was notable, even by the standards of the hospitality industry. This transparency is vital for progress, so we hope that hospitality leaders will not give in to the temptation of silence, but instead continue to share their commitments and achievements with their peers, their teams and their consumers, for the betterment of the sector.

Nutritics' new report, Sustainability Matters: What hospitality leaders want and how their brands can win, includes more takeaways from an eye-opening session – below are ten key takeaways for better sustainability practice.

1. Look for marginal gains
Getting to zero-carbon status can’t happen overnight, so seek to achieve it in small increments. “You can’t turn a juggernaut around quickly. It’s about making little nudges... over time they’ll build and you’ll have made a big change,” said Su Cacciopo of the Peta David Consultancy.

2. Keep it simple
Sustainability messages don’t always land as well as other communications because they’re not easily understood - so look for short, sharp messages. “When you get into scientific information you can turn people off. Make it interesting… and finding things that people can engage with,” said one marketing director.

3. Prioritise
With dozens of competing issues, pick the aspects of sustainability that matter most. As one leader said: “We’ve done lots of little bits and pieces, but it can feel fragmented. “[We ask ourselves] What really matters? What’s going to make a meaningful, tangible difference?”

4. Work from the top down...
Roundtable guests agreed that change has to come from director level. To get boards’ attention, it can help to demonstrate the commercial as well as environmental benefits of becoming more sustainable in areas like energy use and food waste. “Being able to quantify sustainability is the way forward… that helps to get over the board challenge,” said one leader.

5.… And the bottom up
Change also needs to come from the restaurant floor, another CEO pointed out. “If it’s just coming from our executive team down then it won’t land. Getting a push and pull going is always the best way to do it.”

6. Be honest with consumers
Guests are entitled to ask brands tough questions about sustainability. But they also need to be part of the solutions. “We need to tell consumers that we can make dishes with lower carbon impacts, but also that you need to buy them. There’s more to do, but with customer support we can accelerate the changes,” said Mark Chapman, CEO of Zero Carbon Forum.

7. Stay authentic
Consumers want brands to show genuine commitment to their values. “It’s about having a purpose - and not just on sustainability,” said Vikki O’Neill, global CMO of Vapiano. “Show willing… people appreciate that more than a bundle of information they don’t understand.”

8. Think social as well as environmental
Thinking laterally on communications can make messaging easier, one sustainability expert said. Try tweaking the language so you demonstrate all the wider benefits. “We’re communicating it as a social solution rather than just a food waste solution.”

9. Motivate staff
Look for elements of carbon footprints that teams can latch on to, like recycling and cutting food waste. “We aim for the low-hanging fruit - the improvements that staff can make, feel proud of and talk about,” one ops director said. Creating league tables of the sites that are making the biggest cuts in emissions can help, he added. “You start to get that competitive element going.”

10. Act together
Round tables and open discussions are vital if hospitality is to make proper progress on sustainability. “We’ve got to be careful about rushing ahead with communications before we’ve spent the time collectively understanding the problem…and then doing something about it,” said one MD. By looking around for inspiration and sharing best practice, brands can help hospitality as a whole position itself as a leader on this vital issue.

Stephen Nolan is the CEO of Nutritics. Sustainability Matters: What hospitality leaders want and how their brands can win, is available for download now at

Medirest springs new partnership #

Medirest, Compass Group UK & Ireland’s healthcare sector, has partnered with South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust to provide a diverse and quality catering solution to the growing Springfield Village community in Tooting.

Springfield Village is a new mixed-use community made up of more than 800 new homes, a public square, shops and a 32-acre public park. At the centre of the village is Springfield Hospital and its two brand new mental health facilities, the Trinity and Shaftesbury buildings, which are home to a range of inpatient and outpatient mental health services.
The Trust has teamed up with Medirest to deliver a unique catering offer that will serve the growing community. Initially set up for a six-month pilot period, the agreement will see Medirest deliver innovative foodservice technology, which includes their Time2Eat app and in-store ordering kiosks, so that people can click and collect for the ultimate convenience.
Medirest’s offer will include Stove, which is a contemporary comfort food concept and a Peruvian-inspired chicken-based offer called Hola Pollo, which includes fiery and flavoursome chicken, marinated in signature citrus and spice mixes. There will also be a grab-and-go product range, which consists of freshly made sandwiches, incorporating meal deals. Top quality hot beverages will be on sale via the Change Please brand – this is a unique social enterprise who aim to help homeless people through the sales of their award-winning coffee.
Ian Garlington, the Director leading the transformation of the Trust’s Springfield site said: “We’re really pleased that Medirest have helped us to make this fantastic new restaurant a reality. Not only does it look great, but it also offers a wide variety of options in a convenient and flexible way to accommodate different needs. I would like to thank our colleagues and contractors who have worked extremely hard to get the new restaurant ready and open for our growing community to enjoy – including local residents, visitors, our staff and service users.”
Russell Blake, Managing Director, Healthcare - Compass Group UK & Ireland commented: “This is a really creative solution that caters for the rapidly growing local community. We plan to strengthen and evolve the offer in partnership with the community, but our model allows us agility and facilitates customer choice. We look forward to being part of this exciting new venture.”

The new outlet will be called The Wellspring Restaurant and will be open Monday to Friday initially.

A sweet surprise! Cadbury chocolate lodge opens at Thorpe Park Resort #

Cadbury, the UK’s number one hot chocolate brand, has opened up a brand-new kiosk location within one of the nation’s most loved attractions, Thorpe Park Resort.

In collaboration with foodservice provider Aramark, the Cadbury Chocolate Lodge provides thrill-seeking visitors with delicious beverages and treats they know and love, helping to make memories on their days out.
At the Cadbury Chocolate Lodge, visitors can treat themselves to the iconic taste of Cadbury Hot Chocolate alone, or combined with a multitude of additions from beloved brands including OREO, Flake, and Crunchie. A range of formats are on offer, with single bars and sharing bags available to purchase.

The hot chocolate category is currently growing ahead of tea and coffee, with strong growth in the foodservice industry[iii]. Additionally, latest category insight shows that for 50% of customers, brand is the most important factor when choosing a hot chocolate out of home, followed by quality and ingredients – making the new Cadbury Hot Chocolate Lodge a strong offering for consumers.

Carl Horton, Customer Development Manager for Contract Catering at Mondelēz International, said: “Our research reveals 92% of consumers said that when they’re drinking hot chocolate, they’re doing so to enjoy a good moment. As the ultimate destination for thrill seekers, Thorpe Park Resort is the ideal place for the new lodge, giving customers a little taste of Cadbury whilst creating life-long memories. 

“We’re delighted that with Aramark we’re able to help further provide for this occasion. Whether it is enjoyed walking around the park or with friends while queuing for the next ride of the day, the Cadbury Chocolate Lodge builds on the generosity factor, reminding consumers that there is a ‘glass and a half in everyone

Daniel Clark, Aramark Merlin Account Director, said “It’s been such a brilliant experience bringing this to project to life with Mondelēz International and Merlin - from the menu offerings to the design of the Lodge itself, we’re so proud of what we’ve created to offer Thorpe Park Resort’s visitors. We can’t wait to continue welcoming customers to the lodge, and for them to experience the delicious taste of Cadbury with us on their day out!

But the chocolatey fun doesn’t stop there. Mondelēz International will be spreading the joy with 31 new hot chocolate machines across a further five Merlin sites up and down the country in order to reach out and cater to even more consumers. The expansion will roll out over the next few months – so keep your eyes peeled for one popping up near you!

For the latest information and advice on all of our foodservice offerings, visit

If you have an opportunity for Hot Chocolate contact Jo Roffey at Mondelez International by emailing

A.F. Blakemore signs up to Mealtrak consumer tracking programme #

Food-to-go and out-of-home tracking programme MealTrak has signed up A.F. Blakemore & Son as a new client. A.F. Blakemore is the largest SPAR wholesaler in the UK and owns 263 SPAR stores across England and Wales, as well as supporting its independent SPAR estate through Blakemore Trade Partners.
MealTrak is a continuous tracking programme for food-to-go and out-of-home consumption, surveying 36,500 consumers a year about their food-to-go/out-of-home eating occasions from the previous day. This enables subscribers to the service to quantify the out-of-home market and track performance over time; understand the consumer; and get behind the ‘why’ of what is happening.
Founding partner of MealTrak, Nick Blake said:
“We are delighted to welcome A.F. Blakemore as a new client and we look forward to demonstrating the value of the MealTrak dataset with Blakemore and their suppliers.”
Group Commercial Director at A.F. Blakemore & Son, David Cooke – adds:
“Our partnership with MealTrak will help us accelerate our journey to blur the lines of convenience store and food-to-go retailing. Our most recent SPAR store launch at Brindley Place, Birmingham is testament to this, with the introduction of Philpott’s food-to-go concept. We are now better servicing our customers with delicious food for now and food for later solutions, and seeing a significant uplift in our like-for-like sales since go-live.”
Tom Fender, Development Director at TWC – MealTrak’s data partner said:
“MealTrak is one of the most established sources of market intelligence and insight on food-to-go, an area of huge strategic importance to A.F. Blakemore. As experts in the wholesale route-to-market as well as data partner to MealTrak, the opportunity to work with the Blakemore team is a perfect fit for us.”