Cambell's Prime Meat: From humble beginnings to Scottish powerhouses

IDENTIFYING AND targeting sectors ripe for growth has proved a successful strategy for one Scottish company, now boasting an annual turnover of £44 million.

From humble beginnings as a butcher's shop in Queen Street, Edinburgh, Campbells Prime Meat now supplies meat and meat products to foodservice customers across Scotland and Carlisle from its Broxburn depot via its own 65-strong fleet of refrigerated vehicles.

Internet orders from the public represent a smaller scale sideline business. Ideally located between Edinburgh and Glasgow with easy access to Scotland's main motorways, it is as much a distribution business as a catering butcher, says director Christopher Campbell. "We combine the good features of both large and small companies," says Campbell. Thus, while a new computer system allows the placing of orders and issuing of invoices electronically, Campbells Prime Meat remains very much a family business dedicated to providing a high level of service.

Focusing on foodservice customers has allowed the company to double its turnover over the last 12 years, with the sector enjoying more rapid growth than in retail. Turnover has climbed fairly consistently, at 3-5% a year, says Mr Campbell.

Previously operating a chain of shops, Campbells closed its last in 1995 due to competition from supermarkets and opted to concentrate on its strengths. Adding fresh fish to its stock in 2001 was another wise move; fish now constitutes 12% of sales. And its ever-expanding deli offering represents a further successful avenue for the company. Mr Campbell believes the business to be the biggest purchaser of Scottish beef and lamb after the supermarkets, and it is a key customer of Scotch Premier. Other suppliers include ABP and Mitchells of Letham.

"We supply to the whole foodservice range from the public sector - hospitals, schools and universities - to Michelin-starred restaurants," says Campbell. "We have not only a wide range of produce but a wide range of customers." Clients phoning up before midnight are guaranteed delivery before lunch the next day, six days of the week. "You get a person on the other end of the phone, not an answering machine," says Campbell. "It's all about offering a high level of service."

A total of 315 staff members are employed by the company, and its depot carries a full-throughput EC licence and EFSIS higher grade accreditation. Campbells is also approved by the National Association of Catering Butchers and as an Aberdeen Angus Supplier. Stock includes Scotch beef, traceable back to individual farms, matured in the on-site beef hanging chill and traditionally butchered to individual order; Scotch lamb; Dutch gammons and bacon; and corn-fed chicken.

Campbells makes its own sausages, haggis, black puddings, Scotch pies, bridies and sausages rolls, and reports good trade in marinated meat products. The extensive deli range includes products such as whole Scotch smoked salmon, Parma ham, pancetta, wild deer terrine with foie gras medallion and Arbroath smokies. Orders from members of the public via Campbells Prime Meat's web site constitute a lucrative sideline for the company.

Representing only 1% of total company turnover, the service is available across Britain. Customers can select individual cuts or choose pre-selected boxes such as a barbecue choice including Aberdeen Angus beef burgers and Cajun-flavoured chicken butterfly fillets.

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