Food and drink wholesale company Lioncroft Wholesale is actively looking at expansion at multiple levels, its CEO Dr Jason Wouhra OBE has said, revealing his plans to make huge strides on both wholesale as well as retail.
Wholesaling has been in Jason’s blood. Coming from famous Wouhra family who established East End Foods (founded in 1972 by five Wouhra brothers, including Jason’s father Jasbir Wouhra), he had spent a lot of weekends and practically every summer of his growing up years simply playing and messing around in the warehouse.
Subsequently, he got into working, like stacking shelves, helping with banking or in admin duties and that’s how the business (the way he likes to describe as) got into his “bloodstream”.
Speaking to Asian Trader, Jason stated that he is absolutely in love with his business and all the challenges that come along with it.
The East End Foods business was sold in its entirety in 2019 to Exponent Private Equity. In June 2020, Jason and his immediate family, wife Daali, his parents (Jasbir and Pam) and younger brother Indi, bought back the wholesale arm of the business under the name Lioncroft Wholesale Limited.
Now under a new banner and a newer branding, Lioncroft is seemingly ready to roar with massive expansion plans, including the revival of symbol group Lifestyle Express.
“Lifestyle Express actually came to us directly. We now have the rights to Lifestyle express in England and Wales. We are actually looking to redevelop that concept by making it more modern and sleeker to make it more relevant to the consumer.
“Over the years, the symbol group has lost a bit of its presence. We are trying to bring it back. We are getting a lot of signings for lifestyle Express. But more importantly, in addition to lifestyle Express, we’re looking at increasing our retail footprint anyway,” he told Asian Trader.
Based in Birmingham, Lioncroft Wholesale is today one of Midlands’ biggest wholesalers, offering food and drink products at competitive prices. It is also one of Unitas’ (a £6.5bn buying consortium) biggest members.
Lioncroft Wholesale also has its own USP of stocking a wide range of interesting ethnic food.
“We are very heavy on ethnic food so we have probably more than 2000 lines. We have got 15,000 lines overall of products across the aisles. So the range that we carry is much broader than other wholesalers.
“Our services are much better. And as a result, we are able to produce from our two depots is more than companies usually get from eight-nine depots.”
Buzz is that Lioncroft Wholesale is planning to open another warehouse outside Midlands for the first time in the family’s history though Jason refused to comment on this, declining to share any further details as of now.
However, he did state that the group is into major expansion mode on multiple levels.
“We have expanded our sales and grown quite drastically on the wholesale side.
“Last three years, we have spent on building the foundation to develop the business forward. So with the new management team, we have created a plan for expansion. And there are many strands to that plan,” he said.
“We are eager to grow our brand geographically with new depots and perhaps acquisitions of other businesses and are confident that the wholesale channel is in a very strong position especially as consumers have a preference to shop locally,” he said.
After getting back into the hands of Jason and his immediate family, Lioncroft Wholesale has been on a growth trajectory.
“Lioncroft Wholesale has grown by almost 40 per cent organically and with the changes we have made to the business. We aim to increase our sales and footprint rapidly in the next five years.” Jason told the publication.
Jason’s move of re-acquiring the wholesale arm of East End Foods created quite a ripple in the industry at the time, with some calling it an emotional attachment. Busting the rumors and assumptions, the man himself stated that everything was a part of well-thought of plan.
Jason stated that the re-acquirement of the wholesale arm of East End Foods happened within a matter of months after its acquisition. It was intended to be a back-to-back deal, but because of COVID, it got delayed by a few months.
“I could see that the private equity buyer wasn’t so interested in the wholesaling part. Since I had always spent my life in the wholesaling business, it was a very simple decision for me to continue doing that. Firstly, I wasn’t ready to retire and secondly, I wanted to continue the name and legacy of our family and develop the business as much as I possibly can,” he said.
East End Foods was very much a family business with the involvement of almost 50 members of the wider Wouhra family. It was a very “successful business” in itself, Jason said, adding that however, Lioncroft Wholesale has been built on this success in quite a different manner.
Lioncroft Wholesale recently celebrated its third birthday with a glamorous Gala Dinner at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, a star-studded event that saw the attendance of guests from the worlds of politics, entertainment, various dignitaries, suppliers and customers.
Jason and his father Jasbir also took this opportunity to launch the family`s charity, the Lioncroft Foundation with seed capital of £200,000. The Lioncroft Foundation aims to support charities locally, nationally, and internationally with further fundraising planned to take place every year to support the noble causes.
This year, Jason and Lioncroft hosted the first ever Indian Independence Day celebrations held in the House of Lords. The event was attended by Sir Keir Starmer, Lord Bilimoria, Baroness Verma and Indian High Commissioner His Excellency Vikram K. Doraiswami amongst other dignitaries, peers, and ambassadors.
“Indian Independence Day celebrations this year were a proud moment for me and my family. Being involved in the first ever such celebrations in Parliament was wonderful, we had a huge turnout, and it was great to have Lioncroft at the Forefront of such a momentous occasion,” he said.