Turning our supply chain green

Wellocks green recyclable crates have been such a success making deliveries more efficient and reducing waste for our customers that we are now rolling them out to collect products from our suppliers. Removing waste and especially plastic is a key priority for us – and while wrapping produce such as cucumbers and aubergines in plastic is the standard for the industry, we’re working with suppliers to stop this. Instead, growers can pack fresh, ‘naked’ produce straight into our green crates, meaning that they go to our depot in Nelson and then on to the chefs without the need for any plastic wrapping at all.

The move makes our supply chain even greener and shows just how far we go to ensure chefs get the freshest, highest quality products to work with in their kitchens.

A recent trip to Spain by Wellocks’ Principal Buyer Michael Dawes was the perfect opportunity to check on progress. Michael has been working with our Spanish suppliers for a number of months now, negotiating prices and firming up product and packing specifications to help cut plastic use and introduce Wellocks green crates into our overseas supply chain.

Meeting the growers
Michael flew first to Alicante, where he met our citrus growers in Murcia. He visited their lemon and orange groves, and also saw the packhouse where the fruit will be packed into our green crates.

“We’re removing secondary packaging, so now we will have the produce packed straight into our green recyclable crates,” says Michael. “This means better protection for the produce during transportation, less handling in our warehouse and speeding up deliveries to the chefs.”

From Alicante he headed south to see the fields where our broccoli and iceberg lettuces are grown, before visiting the nurseries to see how our suppliers start the process of taking them from seed to young plants.

“I wanted to see how the produce would be packed and confirm the specifications we’d agreed,” says Michael. “Speaking with the growers and seeing the produce on the plants was so educational and inspirational. And knowing that the produce would be picked and packed especially for Wellocks really put a smile on my face.”

Shortening the supply chain
Michael travelled even further south to Almeria, where the refrigerated trucks that bring fresh produce to our Lancashire depot begin their own journey.

The truck is loaded at our first grower in Almeria with peppers, aubergines, courgettes and cucumbers. Next, it heads north to collect plum, vine, beef and cherry tomatoes, before loading field produce such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery, iceberg, and romaine lettuce in Murcia. The final stop is with our citrus grower for lemons and oranges, before heading straight to our depot in Lancashire.

Michael’s visit to Antonio and Joaquin’s operation in Almeria was the perfect opportunity to see the scale of what they do there. Last season, they produced an incredible 225 million kilos of vegetables, across 1,800 hectares of greenhouses, all cultivated under the strictest biological control.

A greener way of working
Michael got to see what a difference the green crate system can make, all the way through the supply chain.

“It was amazing the amount of time Antonio and Joaquin spent with me showing off their produce – they were so passionate,” says Michael. “Again, we had a test of the green crates to get an idea how the products would be packed and also had a tour around the packhouse.”

From there, Michael headed north again, to visit our frisée and little gem growers, before again testing out the green crate system in their packhouse for broccoli, cos and iceberg lettuce.

The experience, though short, underlines the simplicity, economy and sustainability of the way we supply our customers.

We’ve always said that there are really only three people in our supply chain: the grower, Wellocks and the chef – and this was the perfect way of showing just how great relationships and innovative, green technology can be used to bring all three even closer together.