Don Wouhra, one of the leading figures in the Asian foods and wholesaling sectors, passed away on Sunday 10 May following a brief illness.
Don was the youngest of five Sikh brothers who arrived in the UK in the 1960s, via Pakistan and then New Delhi, and who under older brother Tony Wouhra in 1972 established the East End Foods spice manufacturing company in Wolverhampton.
The family began the business by selling meat and fresh produce locally from door to door. However, as the Asian community in the Midlands was growing at that time, the brothers soon saw a way to enlarge their enterprise by supplying South Asian foods.
That led to a cash-and-carry depot, and then a wholesale and manufacturing business. The Wouhras bought the old HP Sauce factory site in Aston, Birmingham, following its demolition in 2007 and subsequently built one of Europe’s largest rice mills on it in 2010.
“It is such an iconic site, and so close to people’s hearts, albeit the old HP building wasn’t there any longer, and we need to make it an iconic site once again,” said Don at the time.
By 2017 East End Foods was worth a reported £200 million and Don had plans to turn it into a billion-pound organisation.
Martin Williams, FWD associate director, who wrote a moving personal tribute to Don, said: “He was one of the most popular figures in the wholesale trade and known for his hard work, and business acumen, but more importantly as a kind and caring gentleman, who would do anything for anyone.”
Don was also a long-serving and dedicated board member of buying group Landmark and subsequently Unitas, following the 2018 merger with Today’s Group.
His responsibilities often meant he would have to travel to meetings at the Milton Keynes headquarters three times a week. “[B]ut Don never missed a meeting and never complained about the time pressure this put on him personally, or his own business,” recalled Williams. “He always shared his knowledge and information for the greater good of the group and its members.”
“Don was a big presence in every way,” said Landmark colleague, wholesaler Steve Parfett. “He was a huge support to me as a board member throughout my time as Landmark chairman, and a massive influence in the group. His laughter was infectious, his normal bear hug greeting breath-taking. He was the consummate wholesale trader, driven by the deal but respected by all who knew him.”
The Wouhra family is naturally in shock at the untimely tragedy. “Holding strong family values, Darshan was immensely proud of his children, Rohit and Simran and his wife Ravinder. He will forever be in their hearts and memory,” said a family spokesman.
Don will also be deeply and sadly missed across a whole industry and a range of institutions.