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Member Interview: Unisnacks – Bringing Peace, Prosperity, and Unity, Through the Business of Food

Written by Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce | 15 Mar 2024

It was as a best business practices mentor in the early days of his career at Unilever, and later with Panasonic in Japan and Siemens AG globally, that Unisnacks CEO Hyder gained expertise in the areas that would underpin the start-up success of the company he now leads: food production and distribution, and Eastern food culture.

In 2006, Hyder envisioned Unisnacks to - as he puts it - “bring some excitement into the snack business by putting East Asian food in your corner shops, not just speciality stores. Global foods, locally!”

Some 17 years on, the company now imports and distributes 45 global food and beverage brands in the UK, directly from the manufacturer, on an exclusive basis. It’s also headline sponsor of the SME Bedfordshire Business Awards this year and sponsors many others.

In 2024, the business has redefined its service as a global food importer, going beyond East Asian products to add value to trade channels serving the UK’s consumer diversity.

When we caught up with Hyder recently for this interview, his wish was that it should inspire other SMEs with his company’s incredible journey so far – and beyond.

Happy suppliers, healthy business

The overarching principle behind Unisnacks’ success has been Hyder’s conviction that “The supplier is king.”

“You need to buy right to sell right,” he says. “We needed to create distribution cost efficiencies that would enable a competitive offering of brands distributed to local trade by Unisnacks, whilst ensuring above-average margins for wholesalers and retailers, and the best value for consumers. This will drive volumes, with economies of scale resulting in better value across the trade channel.”

Those efficiencies came from innovative technology – in its latest guise, operating on an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform in a fully integrated, bespoke warehouse, driven by a warehouse management system (WMS), and powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

This enables the factory floor around the world that leads to your local store to be traced, analysed, and improved, in real time - with 99.9% accuracy. The business is currently rolling out its ‘last mile’ delivery integration, which enables seamless efficiency up and down the country, promising 72-hour guaranteed delivery, and enabling trade with ambient and frozen global brands.

The business is certified by Brand Reputation through Compliance (BRC – previously the British Retail Consortium) and won the Korean Prime Minister’s Export Award in 2023 along with many other legacy-defining awards from governments such as Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, and more.

Game-changing expansion

The focus on technology has been rocket fuel for Unisnacks’ business.  In well under 20 years, the company has gone from a 400-square foot warehouse operation to a 65,000-square foot, bespoke, state-of-the-art facility with a 14,000-pallet capacity, ensuring last mile delivery through its own fleets. It has achieved double-digit growth for the past eight years.

The business has also successfully branched out into supplying restaurant and catering ingredients (Unifoods), while embarking on taking British-made snacks to the world in its latest export drive with Unisnacks International.

Whether you’re enjoying a sweet or savoury snack,  delicious noodles, a soft drink, or a condiment to add flavour to your food, if it’s from around the globe it’s likely to have come from Unisnacks’ distribution centre in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire.

Food – a force for good

Hyder also sees the business as much more than an example of hyper-efficiency; for him, it represents a passion for doing the right thing on many levels. As he puts it, “We work as a means of living and we do not live to work, but nothing comes for free in life.”

“Food brings people and cultures together,” he continues. “I might not speak your native language, you might not speak mine, but we can both enjoy each other’s food, and connect through it.”

At the same time, Hyder values his “passionate” colleagues. He takes them on expressly to train and motivate them, and increase their social mobility, “so that our colleagues can do better jobs for more pay and less work, through technological, innovation-driven productivity increases.” And it is their passion that has made Unisnacks what it is, as Hyder explains: “Behind every successful businessman there is a bigger team, and it is thanks to every single one of my team members that the business is where it is today.”

And the company is determined to reduce its environmental impact, too. The distribution centre and office is powered by renewable energy, and recycles rainwater. Its sales vehicle fleet is electric, and it insists on a minimum of 30% recycled packaging material from its suppliers.

It also reduces wasteful empty shipping container backloads by filling them with Made in Britain foodstuffs that it exports to the rest of the world – which, he says, “loves British quality.”

Supporting the SME Bedfordshire Business Awards

“Competition is good for business in delivering better value to consumers,” Hyder says, “but the greater purpose of our business is to make a positive impact on people connected to our business - and supporting the Awards brings that positive impact right back into the local community.”

“We’re also opening our doors to local businesses so they can see how we work and learn how to adopt similar methods. This will keep pushing ‘Team Unisnacks’ to innovate, keep pace with the competition, increase efficiency, and pay attention to the detail that makes us thrive.”

“For us, it’s not just about giving something back, it’s also about making it really count.”

For more information, visit the Awards site here. To enquire about becoming a Chamber member, or speak to our friendly team on 01582 522448.

Topics: member interview

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