Fine food firm Bennett Opie aims at doubling sales

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

Bennett Opies makes a range of pickled products and condiments under its Opies brand
Bennett Opies makes a range of pickled products and condiments under its Opies brand

Related tags: Pickling

Bennett Opie aims to double sales from £25M to £50M in five years and has opened a new warehouse facility as it seeks to boost UK and overseas business.

“We have doubled the business since 2007–2008 to £24.8M,”​ William Opie, owner and fourth generation family member involved in managing the fine food producer and distributor, told FoodManufacture.co.uk. “Our first annual target will be £27M, but we are capable of doubling again in the next five years.”

The business, which was founded in 1914 and is based at Sittingbourne in Kent, has just opened a 4,645m2​ depot to keep pace with demand and prepare it for the next stage of expansion.

“We have expanded into a very large new warehouse, which has more than doubled our warehousing and logistics capacity,” ​said Opie. “It gives me another 4,000 pallet spaces, taking us to 6,000 pallet spaces overall.”

Amazon

Within the UK, the firm was in discussions to supply online retailer Amazon as it sought to take advantage of strong growth in internet sales, he said, adding: “We are already well-established with Ocado.”

But there were challenges with Amazon’s supply chain model, he said. “We already have products on Amazon that have been sold by third parties. We want to send out full pallets, but when you start out they only want you deliver just what they need for an order.” ​Bennett Opie had also seen strong growth in UK foodservice channels, he added.

However, the overall grocery market in Europe was “flatlining”​, said Opie. As a result, the business, which had been involved in the export market for 30 years, was focusing a lot on the rest of the world for growth, he said.

“In the past few months we have started in South Korea. There was a company out there we got to know. We got in with a range of pickles and various other items and we’re fine tuning the range.

‘Potential is big’

“If you look at the population there, the potential is quite big. They are real fans of the Brits and love English products. They are very open at the moment to anything new.

“We have started in Hong Kong and moved into China with a couple of products … we have had massive growth in China in the pickle sector.”​ The business launched its Garden of Eden pickle range in 2013.

Maraschino cherries were another area of interest in China, he said. “Companies import huge quantities from the west coast of the US.”

Bennett Opie had received a lot of direct approaches from Chinese firms interested in the products it supplied, he said. The past full-year had been its best year so far for exports into China, with trade to the country driving overall growth, he added.

Target for expansion

Breaking into Japan was on his wish list and the US was another target for expansion, he said. “We would love to do more in the States.”

Bennett Opie was also making inroads into the Middle East, which it believed could be an important source of growth, after exhibiting in Dubai, said Opie.

The firm exported to 20 countries and overseas trade represented 10–12% of the firm’s sales, he claimed. Its brands include Monin syrups, Opies pickled foods and condiments and Barry Norman pickled onions.

Related topics: Ambient foods

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