CLF Distribution is a wholesale company that was established in 1998. The company’s initial focus was sports nutrition and over time, as the organic and health food market flourished, they have been quick to meet consumer and retailer demand in these sectors.
We caught up with founder, Robin Holiday and Marketing Manager, Mark Sharp to find out about their latest product launches, their commitment to the indie sector, organic and vegan and their new compostable packaging.
Family business Talking to Robin, it’s clear that his vision has always been to create a family business – aside from the company name, CLF being the initials of Robin’s three children, he is also inspired by the independent retail sector where many businesses are family run. Robin’s son Logan recently joined the company as Project Manager and daughter, Fallon joined the Customer Services Department.
On the shop floor In 2010 Robin bought a health food shop in Salisbury to gain an insight into the challenges facing independent retailers.
Through their technical side of the business, Emporio, they introduced their Epos system which is a till linked with ordering from CLF. Epos is currently used in 130 stores and is designed to streamline ordering, stock management and deliveries.
The shop was later sold on in 2015 to Sanjay Patel, who renamed the store Well Natural and expanded the business, opening shops in Temple Fortune, London and Lymington.
The Emporio Epos system is a means for CLF to support independent retailers, it records when products are sold and automatically adds replacement products to the next delivery. The system is subsidised by CLF keeping the cost lower for retailers.
Organic Kitchen CLF Distribution has been committed to the organic sector for years. Recognising its benefits to the environment, using fewer pesticides and better for health, as organic food has higher levels of some nutrients.
They launched their new Organic Kitchen range in September 2018 with apple cider vinegar and coconut oil. Other products have followed including peanut butter, passata, baked beans and more.
Because Robin sees that organic and vegan products are very much in sync, where the company’s products are naturally vegan, they are certified, to support the Vegan Society.
Ethical journey In his search for ethically produced coconut products, Robin audited several coconut plantations in Sri Lanka.
He was looking to shorten the supply chain to reduce mileage and also looking for a plantation that supported local workers and one that didn’t use animal labour. A little-known fact is that monkeys can be used to pick coconuts on plantations.
Robin also ensured that the plantation he sources from does not use high temperatures for processing. Heating fats like coconut oil in this way creates a food processing contaminant called 3-MCPD which studies have found to be carcinogenic.
Sales of the company’s Just Natural dried mango pieces also support families in Akina Faso in Africa.
The team are always looking for ways to ensure that the products they sell meet high ethical standards.
Reducing plastic The biggest demand from customers and retailers alike over the last year or so has been to reduce plastic in the food chain.
The feedback received is that they are happier with a packaged product. When looking for alternatives to plastic packaging, the factors that had to be taken into account included shelf life and impact on product quality.
So, CLF’s first compostable packaging for their Just Natural range was launched at the beginning of 2019 to meet this demand. The packaging can be disposed of in food bins and home composted.
Of the 400 products in the range, 200 are now plastic free with more to follow, until the range is completely plastic free. Since they launched the product, they have seen a huge uplift in sales.
Their products are sold through CLF distribution and also direct to customers on the Just Natural website. They’ve also joined the OTB members discount club and are offering members 20% off their first order. Click here to access the Members Resource area, and email Annie if you need a reminder of the password.