A growing family business that’s now one of Wales’s top food wholesalers with a turnover of more than £30 million is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Harlech Foodservice was founded in 1972 by Shropshire couple Colin and Gill Foskett who took over a failing frozen food company and began its transformation into a business supplying restaurants, pubs, schools and hospitals across Wales and into England.
Colin’s brothers, Fred and Stephen, joined the business and the founders’ three children, Jonathan, Andrew and Laura, took over from their parents and still sit on the board and the third generation of the family are now making their way in the firm.
Harlech Foodservice now employs over 200 staff at sites at Criccieth and Chester while its fleet of lorries and vans delivers over 5,000 product lines to cafés, restaurants, pubs and public sector customers across North and Mid-Wales, Shropshire, the Midlands and the North West.
Chairman Jonathan Foskett said: “It was a small seasonal business when it started but it has grown slowly and steadily over the years until now it operates year round with full-time staff and a fleet of vehicles.
“The tourism industry was 95 per cent of the original business, supplying hotels, guest houses and holiday and caravan parks across what is now Gwynedd and very much part-time in the winter.
“But once we began taking on contracts with schools and colleges it became a year-round service and we were able to keep staff on full-time and create real quality jobs which have helped the local economy.
“We have maintained the standards of quality and customer care that our parents set and have remained a firm that is very much a big family even though we have outgrown two premises and expanded on this site.
“We have been helped in that because the Welsh name, culture and reputation for quality food travel well and mean a lot to so many people.”
Laura Foskett, whose daughters, Ella and Milli, work in business during school holidays, added: “We were involved in the family firm from the age of 10 and we didn’t have summer holidays because it was always work, work, work then.
“Our parents certainly didn’t envisage it becoming the size it is now but it’s something to be really proud of and it’s good to see so many of the next generation involved – it’s part of their lives just as it was part of ours.”
Andrew Foskett recalls living above the shop where the business started in Harlech before it moved to Y Ffôr, near Pwllheli, before that too was outgrown and the current site at Llanystumdwy was taken on in 2010.
Like his brother and sister he was involved from a young age, going out with his dad on deliveries before graduating to a van boy and then a driver and going out with the vans and lorries.
He said: “You name it, I’ve done it but you have to do that in a family business.
“We are a Welsh company and in the summer months when holiday businesses are very busy, we were we were able to react more quickly than firms over in Manchester and the Midlands because we were on their doorstep.
“If we had a hot weekend and people needed emergency orders, we were there on the patch to deliver and no-one could match us and that helped our customers grow and helped us grow.
“It meant we were able to diversify into schools, colleges and hospitals and retain staff in the winter and opening in Chester does that as well.”
Managing director David Cattrall is now in day to day charge of the company’s ambitious new business plan which aims to increase turnover to over £50 million in the next three years.
He said: “We used the time in lockdown to make sure we were ready for the re-opening of tourism and hospitality with a major restructuring which has included quadrupling online sales since upgrading our website and introducing an ‘order up to 10pm for next day delivery’ service.
“We recently visited our loyal customer base to seek feedback which resulted in us introducing seven-day delivery throughout the spring/summer season
“We have built new management teams and invested in our people’s skills to increase our delivery capacity and we are already the reward with three major new contracts across Wales and into England.
“I am confident that by providing an improved range of products at transparent and competitive prices and strengthening our service more and more customers will choose Harlech Foodservice as their supplier.”