Alpine welcomes butcher into the family

A FOOD wholesale business has bought part of a village butchery so it can expand its raw meat offering.

Hull-based Alpine Fine Foods, which was set up with directors Peter McAlpin and Darren Peacock more than a decade ago, has invested an undisclosed amount in acquiring the wholesale side of Charter’s Butchers of Brandesburton, a family business which dates back to 1896.

Kevan Vickers, who with his wife Sarah owns Charter’s, is heading up Alpine’s new butchery unit. Mrs Vickers will continue to run the retail business, which includes two shops in Brandesburton and Leven, where around 10 people are employed.

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Alpine currently employs 69 people, having taken on Mr Vickers and butcher Anthony Chambers from Charter’s.

Mr Peacock said: “The investment enables us to offer a complete butchery service, including making sausages and burgers to customers’ specific requirements. Added to our fresh fruit and vegetables and our ambient, chilled, frozen and non-food products it helps establish Alpine as a one-stop-shop for all of our customers’ requirements.”

Alpine, whose core customers include cafes, bars, restaurants, pubs, schools, hospitals, staff canteens and leisure and hospitality businesses, was previously sourcing raw meat from Charter’s to trial the new product offering before completing the merger.

“Creating an in-house butchery business is something we have been working towards,” said Mr McAlpin. “We’ve carried out a lot of research, visiting abattoirs all over the UK and Ireland to ensure we are sourcing the best quality meat and we have built our own meat cutting and processing unit to the highest standards. By working with Charter’s we have the highest quality and great traditions. We also have full control and full traceability from farm to fork.”

Alpine currently has a turnover of more than £8m, but this is expected to increase to around £10m over the next 12 to 18 months, said Mr Peacock, who added that the business is “very profitable”.

The majority shareholders of the business are Mr Peacock and Mr McAlpin, but the company also has backing from investment businesses MWS Group and JSJ Partnership.

“The new product category gives us the opportunity to expand our business with the customers we already serve. There will also be opportunities for new customers we’ve not dealt with in the past,” he said.

The company supplies a wide range of products including pasta, cooking sauces, canned fish, soft drinks and soup, across North and East Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire.

It plans to expand into Leeds in the last quarter of this year. “We are looking to expand across the M62 corridor,” said Mr Peacock. “One of our aspirations is to look at either strategic partnerships or acquisitions in the future.”

Mr Vickers explained that the partnership came about after it emerged that his children did not want to go into the family business. “We decided to run the wholesale business with Alpine,” he said, adding that Charter’s had a turnover of around £1m before the wholesale side joined Alpine. “We’ve taken a good £250,000 to £350,000 out of that by bringing the trade here.”

Mr Peacock said: “Kevan wanted to grow his business but couldn’t do that from the premises in Brandesburton. Only about 10 per cent of his business was food service, with 90 per cent retail. He will still do the retail butchery here but the food service side will increase to 60 or 70 per cent and we will be working to build on that.

“Charter’s is a perfect fit with the ethos at Alpine, where we aim to provide the quality of products and the level of customer care you would expect from a family-run business but with the buying power of a larger organisation.”

Mr Vickers added: “We are in the process of informing our customers and we’re sure they’ll be happy with the arrangement. We’ll be keeping the same suppliers and we’ve got the same people doing the butchery to the same high standard. The benefit is that we now have a state-of-the-art, purpose-built meat plant and are using Alpine’s modern and efficient distribution service.”