Speaking to Foodmanufacture.co.uk after posting its full-year results last Thursday, Uniq chief executive Geoff Eaton said product availability had improved after his firm installed its own staff at M&S to help replenishment.
He added: “We’ve had our own people in their business [M&S] helping with availability and ordering and that’s worked quite well. It’s a more effective way of working.”
Uniq’s fortunes were closely tied with those of its biggest customer, accepted Eaton, but he rejected suggestions that it was overexposed. “M&S accounts for more than half of our business. But the relationship is really good. We picked up £15M of new business with them this year in food-to-go and we have some really interesting innovations planned with M&S in the coming months.”
'Looking forward' to meeting with Mark Bolland
While major suppliers to M&S faced a period of uncertainty as they waited to see how new chief executive Mark Bolland would approach the food business, Eaton said he was looking forward to meeting the Dutchman, who takes the helm on May 1.
He added: “If you look at the way Mark Bolland approached the challenge he faced when he arrived at Morrisons [in September 2006] then I’m very encouraged.”
As the major beneficiary of M&S’s decision to consolidate the number of sandwich suppliers from three to two, Uniq now has a 65% share of M&S’s sandwich business.
M&S announced last week a 1.8% rise in food like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to March 27, which reflected modest volume gains, said chairman Sir Stuart Rose. The retailer, which has recently rolled out branded products into 150 stores following successful trials, is also planning to launch more than 1,500 new own-label lines this year.