Better Retailing Digest
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Nearly 40 years ago, George Skoulikas began importing olives from Greece. Today the Sunita brand has a specialist portfolio of healthy Mediterranean foods with a proud reputation among independents.

SUNITA

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The thing that sets Sunita apart is that the brand owned by George Skoulikas Ltd still imports olives from the same family producer as it did in 1977. The same applies to the Greek olive oil, tahini and halva – a delicate snack also popular the Middle East – that were added in those early days.

Many of those same producers and suppliers are now second and third generation of the original Greek families. As the range of products has diversified, products are now also sourced from other countries including Italy, Spain and France.

George Skoulikas built his sales by making deliveries in his van. He then moved into a small place on Balls Pond Road in Islington where the bulk halva was sliced down and vacuum packed to sell on to retailers. Some of the company’s earlier customers included Alara, Neals Yard, Suma, Harvest and Nova in Bristol, Infinity and The Health Store. These key wholesalers (Harvest and Nova became Essential Trading) are still loyal distributors for Sunita to this day.

George Skoulikas was always keen to supply the wholefood trade and when Colin Morrison joined him in the early 1990s the push to increase their organic range began. Colin has since retired but the necessity for organic fine foods has continued.

Current MD George Carroll took over the reins a short while before George Skoulikas retired in 2012 and the company was sold to Wholefoods Wholesale in Ireland. The company has always had a low turnover of staff with four of its seven employees each having been with the company for over 15 years, with Warehouse Manager Oliver Clernon racking up an impressive 26 years.

A new position was created last year for a Sales & Marketing Manager and Jan Orrett was brought in from a longstanding sales role in one of the UK’s major wholefood wholesalers. Over the years, Sunita has been established in the wholefood trade as a stable, reliable and trustworthy brand with quality and integrity at its heart, all emphasised by fresh re-branding being rolled out in 2015.

THE PRODUCTS

Sunita’s portfolio has extended to include sesame bars, tahini, halva, pestos, pâtés, lemon & lime juices, bruschetta spreads, raw honeys, fruit spreads and other store cupboard essentials. In the 12 months to Spring 2015 three new ranges were launched:

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  • Four Organic Bruschetta Spreads: Mixed Olive, Porcini Mushroom, Red Pepper and Tomato from Italy.
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  • Four Raw Organic Honeys: Forest, Lavender, Rosemary and Thyme from the Sierra Nevada National Park, Spain.
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  • Four Organic Fruit Spreads: Apricot, Blackcurrant, Orange and Strawberry made traditionally in copper cauldrons or ‘bassine a confiture’, sweetened only with organic apple juice concentrate, these fruit spreads are high in fruit content and much lower in sugars than conventional jams.

RETAILER SUPPORT

The 2014 acquisition of Bedford Continental Wholesale (BCW), supplier to delis and fine food stores throughout the UK, has given Sunita access to numerous suppliers of organic, vegan and gluten free foods. The amalgamation of the two companies will become more apparent towards the end of 2015 as the two businesses integrate fully.

Meanwhile, Sunita’s main mission is to build a better and more supportive relationship with retailers. Says Jan Orrett: “We offer passive tasting sets and are developing a wider range of POS material such as leaflets and posters. This will become more available as our new branding feeds through.”

There are also more promotional offers available through wholesalers including CLF, Essential, The Health Store, Tree of Life, Suma and Wholefoods Wholesale.

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