31 Oct 1994

Dart group purchases Fowler Welch, based in Spalding, Lincolnshire FW operate outSpalding of Holly Lodge, a 5 acre site comprising of a modern temperature controlled cold store where they are contracted to deliver imported fruits and veg for various local, national and international companies, The largest being Wentworth (an Albert Fisher company),Antonio Munoz, supplier of Spanish citrus to the retailers and Malet Azoulay, who specialised in Avocados.

Earlier in the nineties the company had, with some visionary foresight, purchased the West Marsh Road sight that is still its headquarters today.

Daily deliveries where undertaken for an ever increasing number of importers and growers who were capitalising on the changing face of supply, away from the traditional wholesale markets, to serving the Supermarkets, who were demanding temperature controlled on time deliveries. On the back of this rapid growth FW had become Tesco's first accredited haulier in 1992.


Significant developments in the growth of the business saw us secure Sainsbury’s Lincolnshire/Cambridge consolidator status, at this time Sainsbury were the largest of the multiples. 

WarehousingIn order to meet with the demand for on site facilities that provided customers with offices, temperature controlled warehouse space and a national distribution service significant investment was made in the West Marsh Road site, this consisting of white walled temperature controlled areas accesses by sunken loading docks and the first of the Duplex offices.

Following the demise of a local competitor the business secured the on site warehousing and distribution contract of Empire World Trade, a substantial supplier of top fruit to the retailers, and one of Tesco's largest suppliers in the fruit category.

Utilisation of assets was and still is the key to a successful logistics business and FW were not only providers of temperature controlled goods, in order to keep the trucks rolling a range of goods were carried but never before until now had the business undertaken the movement of live turkeys, in specially designed trailer. The birds were moved from farms throughout the East Midlands and Norfolk to Turners Turkeys Spalding factory.


Darts other distribution business, Channel Express joins with FW and trades underWarehouse 2 the Fowler Welch banner.

The existing CE flower distribution site at Derby was closed.

The operation re-located to the West Marsh Road site where it is housed in a newly acquired 40,000sq,ft warehouse.

This building had recently been purchased, along with a roadway from the British Sugar Company, what an entrepreneurial buy that was!

(there also used to be a railway line …. )

This latest land purchase grew the site acreage to 22 acres  


The retailers where making a big push for fresher ,on time deliveries of fruit, veg and the emerging convenience food markets, at the same time they looked to rationalise their supply chains. Consolidation was the buzz word and FW were well placed to take up the many opportunities that presented themselves.

The huge growth in imported fruit and veg saw pressure on the retailers depots, struggling to cope with the increase in deliveries, therefor fewer fuller loads was the order of the day and whereby in the past growers and importers had delivered their own goods price pressure now made this less viable, and FW capitalised on these opportunities. One such was C.Minnaar, Earith. Not only did this add significant daily volumes to an already ever increasing throughput it also gave FW a strategic operating base in the growing area of Cambridgeshire. Minnaar’s fleet, trucks and trailers were part of the deal that also brought us long serving members of staff, some still with us to-day. 

Such opportunities were plentiful at this time and whilst facing stiff opposition from their rivals FW were swift of foot in adding new customers along with additional operating centres which again lead to a local presence and further opportunities. The purchase of the Russell Burgess (Peterborough) potato account, along with trucks, trailers and people being another prize. Flexibility and adaptability were ingrained in FW’s DNA, and again this was proven when requested by Tesco to provide a daily temperature controlled pallet service to Ireland following the retailers purchase of a business there. Within a matter of weeks a supply chain was established, local goods consolidated this side of the water were then collected by a Irish sub contractor, engaged by FW, overnight deliveries hitting both the north and the republic the very next day.  


SelbyThe FW network continued to expand with the companies first Yorkshire operation opening at Selby, this on the back of securing the English Village Salads contract. As well as adding another important strategic staging post this win added to the operating efficiency of our fleet through guaranteeing more back loads. Additional warehousing had also been built Spalding.

The major development of 98 was our official recognition as Safeway's accredited haulier for fresh, covering Lincolnshire & Cambridgeshire. This latest prize made the company, by a long way, the largest carrier of temperature controlled fruit, veg and horticulture in the country.

Our southern operations moved into larger premises, taking a 20,000sq,ft temp controlled facility in Ackworth Rd. Hilsea. Portsmouth. This move necessary due to the increasing South Coast veg and horticulture volumes.


The FW vision of providing customers with a one stop shop solution was proving successful, by this time we were already housing four of the most significant produce importers supplying the retailers, the dream of the produce village was clearly materialising.

FW BV formed and our European services, veg and horticultural inbound products commenced, adding and complementing our ever increasing retailer bound volumes.

In recognition of the company outstanding performance in the temperature controlled market sector the business were proud to receive the award for UK Temperature Controlled Distribution Company of the Year - from the Institute of Transport Management.

By far the single largest acquisition made by the Dart Group was made in Nov 1999Fowler Welch Teynham when we completed the purchase of Coolchain Ltd, based in Kent, with three operating centres, Teynham, Paddock Wood and Sheerness. Coolchain also operate out of Southampton port where they undertake the entire delivery schedules for all inbound Canary tomatoes, a contract we still hold today.

As the second largest consolidator of temp controlled foods in the UK, behind FW, this acquisition was reported in the trade press as giving the enlarged business a 60% market share of all chilled goods, destined for the retailers regional distribution centres, in the UK.


Not just the Millennium was being celebrated at this memorable time, FW captured the National Consolidator status for ASDA, making it all 4 of Britain's leading Retailers entrusting their fresh and horticultural products to FW, what an achievement ! 

"We catch it all… Nationwide"

A.Woods became part of the group, adding volumes and people and also an operating base in the North East of the country in Gateshead, this again adding to the companies ever increasing national presence.

In the Channel Islands the Guernsey site was expanded and modernised, as was the road fleet.

It was not just produce companies who enjoyed the FW service offering, in this year Geest Flowers took part of the white walled facilities to promote their push into providing the increasing demand by the retailers for temperature controlled, short shelf life flowers. 


Given the enlarged scale of the business, alongside its now multi site operations, the business undertook a review of its IT capabilities.

Whilst the rapid growth over recent times had seen huge daily delivered volumes this in itself had brought its own problems, the diversification in systems as a consequence of bringing together various businesses and new customer accounts placed huge demands on existing systems.

In order to manage this issue the business required a system that not only gave us a uniform accounts package but also gave our traffic operations teams national, as well as local, visibility. To this end the Chainware system was purchased.

The FWC business was not only a carrier of local and imported fruit, veg & horticulture, substantial daily volumes of short shelf life convenience foods, such as ready meals were now being entrusted for onward deliveries.

In order to meet with this demand, and in anticipation of the retailers strict requirements around temperatures, the company had already steadily grown its multi temperature trailer fleet.

Again market leaders in offering 3 different temperature compartments on one trailer, this enabled convenience foods, produce and horticultural products to be housed on one delivery, exactly what the retailers wanted, at the same time adding to the companies load fill, that most important KPI. 

In winning these volumes many customers were given the opportunity to have trailers painted in their own colours, Smedley foods, part of the Uniq group, Malet Azoulay, Empire world Trade, Utopia, Worldwide Fruit also our oldest customer Kettle Produce who’s premises still to this day provide our operating centre in Scotland

Fowler Welch HilseaIn addition in 2001 to these and again seizing on opportunities to back load vehicles and improve profitability, FW wins deep frozen transport work, again proving the versatility of our multi temperature trailers. 

On the south coast the Coolchain business won the Southern consolidation award for Sainsbury's, so now Darts Distribution companies manage Lincolnshire, Kent and the South Coast for Sainsbury's. 

To cope with new business wins the FW BV business has moved to an enlarged site at Honselersdijk, adjacent to the Dutch Flower Mkt.


An agreement was reached with retailer Iceland that saw FWC awarded the consolidation and onward distribution of Iceland's Lincolnshire and surrounding areas volumes delivered on a daily basis. The benefit this provided was to enhance our trailer load fill as our vehicles were already collecting other products from these customers. Also Safeway cut flowers were added to the ever expanding range carried by Fowler Welch

Jim Welch still found time to support local schools.Jim Welch

Yet another customer takes up residence on –site, this time picking and packing services were provided for Redbridge holdings, again benefiting our increasing load fill for retailers and wholesalers.

A different challenge was provided by Supplair, a supplier to the airlines, this time goods were consolidated from around the UK and Holland, ahead of deliveries into Heathrow for immediate use by airlines, these goods made up the majority of the inflight catering including ambient, chill and frozen    


The companies two Distribution businesses are merged to form a new company, Fowler Welch Coolchain, the enlarged business with 8 sites, will continue to develop its multi temp controlled offering whilst seeking out other market opportunities that will complement existing volumes.

A new Logo for a new company, the multi coloured roundel that will now feature on all FWC’s equipment features a variety of both fruit & flowers, depicting the companies expertise in handling these time critical short shelf life products.

FWC awarded the Sainsbury's produce consolidation for Cambridgeshire, a huge prize for the company, thus demonstrating the newly enlarged businesses ability offer top quality service at low cost prices.  

Again demonstrating their varied service offering, supported by a now envied and impressive network FWC capture the export contract for a major American Airline, these goods are sourced in Holland then collected and delivered by FWC to both Heathrow and Gatwick airports, a tremendous capture for our business supported by both our Dutch and Kent operations.


Kerry foods, a major supplier of ready meals and household brands that include, Walls sausages, Mathesson's sliced meats Bowyers and many more, took space in the Gateshead facility, our first on site stock held customer in the North East area. This relationship blossomed over the years and is still growing.

A major step forward in industry recognition was achieved in this year when Fowler Welch commenced on a programme to obtain accreditation firstly through Efsis (European Food Safety Inspection service) a food safety standard

More recently accreditation with BRC (British Retail Consortium) as generally this inspection is now the acceptable standard throughout the total supply chain.

Today every owned warehousing site including ambient hold these certificates to the highest levels, in addition to Storage and Distribution disciplines most sites also have contract packing services approved


This quickly turned into an exceptionally busy year, and one that would change customer perception of the business going forward, hot on the heels of winning the Kerry Foods business, the Spalding site was awarded the storage, picking and distribution contract for Bernard Matthews Foods, a major supplier of Turkey products to Britain’s retailers and wholesalers

Plenty of activity in the South when Teynham Kent won the Lactalis storage and distribution business, Lactalis a major supplier to retailers of French cheeses under the President brand, soon to follow were

Italfresco, suppliers of Pasta products to primarily Tesco and Sainsbury this account continues to grow steadily today

Our national network lacked presence in the South West of the country, this changed when an situation arose to provide services from the port of Bristol, a satellite operation was swiftly set up to distribute produce from around the world to be nationally

Also in this year FWC won the National Consolidation tender for Somerfield Supermarkets, adding yet more volume to a ever increasing client portfolio.

Although these were buoyant times for the Distribution business it faced many challenges, not least of which was a shortage of LGV drivers on a national scale.

Recognising this problem the company undertook an exercise to explore the potential in increasing the use of eastern European drivers, establishing relationships with agencies, but along side this developing language skills, in partnership with Lincoln University. Big tick award was won (2007) for "Language Skills for Migrant Workers" recognising the work done since 2005 assisting eastern European colleagues integrate into the local communities


Another major step in the Distribution arms development as a leading logistics business was the acquisition in April 2006 of the R.F.Fielding business in Stockport, Cheshire. Unlike the rest of the FWC business this was an ambient ( non temperature control ) operation but predominantly still delivering food and drinks, to retailers and wholesalers.

The Stockport site was 180.000sq ft. with a pallet holding capacity of 15.000. Customers included several who produced household name products such as, Warburton's, Swizzles, Prince's, Tetley and many, many more...

The site was Asda’s designated Northern PCC (Primary consolidation centre) and clearly this was a major opportunity for FWC to grow its relationship by providing services in the Ambient sector.

The rationale behind this move was not only to reach a new customer base but in doing so almost revolutionise the outdated and pedestrian supply chain at this time. Unlike the now mature Chilled operation of day 1 orders being delivered day 2, or even same day, the dated ambient solution was one of day 1 order, day 5 delivery, with FWC entering the market place all was about to change… Dart’s businesses also came together in Manchester, Jet2’s growing presence at Manchester's airport was visible from the ground and air with the company’s new livery proudly displayed on the ambient road fleet

FWC further developed its ties with Bernard Matthews by being awarded the entire inbound products from BM’s producing sites, in Norfolk and Suffolk, to the FWC West Marsh Road site for storage ,picking and onward distribution.

FWC move into new North-east site, having long since outgrown the Gateshead facility covering 8 acres in total including a building, 50,000 sq. ft. this was a real turning point in the expansion programme the site was almost new and ideal for the development had planned in the North East.

Lactalis extended its market offering following the purchase the Galbani Italian cheese’s range Just to bring a seasonal end to the year FWC were requested by Bernard Matthews to deliver their entire Christmas turkey range to the supermarkets, a pretty time critical operation and one that was superbly well executed, so much so that we have carried out this work every Christmas since, thanks Kev !!


FWC continue to attract more on-site storage customers this time winning the Marlow Foods business, Marlow, owned at the time by Premier Foods, produce a range of healthy products, the best known being the Quorn brand, and it is FWC’s responsibility to order pick and deliver these goods to the retailers in as little as 12 hours after receiving the orders, in maximising load fill for these voluminous products the investment was began with the introduction into the road fleet of double Decker trailers offering increased capacity

Now boasting an ambient operation following the purchase of R.F.Fieldings, FWC was successful in winning a substantial piece of Tesco ambient business, demonstrating the enlarged service offering available for existing and potential new customers.

Madrange added to Kent picking operations with their French pate’

J. Garcia Carrion added significant volume with a collection of Spanish fruit juices supplying major retailers, once again starting it’s FWC experience in Spalding before going on to be located in Teynham, closer to the entry point into the country.


The company's growing reputation as a quality service provider, offering unrivalled flexibility saw sales continue to increase at all sites. The Stockport ambient operation celebrated the award the storage and distribution of the McCambridge business, best known for brands such as Soreen a malted loaf, this latest success was now giving management another problem, one of space as stock holding levels rose to circa 14,500plts which at seasonal peaks hit 18,000plts.

Temporary sites were rented on short term deals just to cope with demand, the search was on to find a suitable site to succeed Stockport.

Probably the most time sensitive piece of business to be awarded to FWC was gained in this year with the winning of the Tesco Express operation for the North East of England supplying Express and Metro stores with a wide range of goods, picked in cages and trunked on double decked trailers from Tesco distribution centres in Scotland and Yorkshire the goods are then unloaded consolidated onto smaller vehicles for delivery to store initially food related goods this range has extended to cover non-food also increasing the throughput by 100%  

Manhattan a powerful WMS (Warehouse management system) designed to control stock inventory, inbound and outbound movements using RF (Radio Frequency) guns scanning the pallets and cases allowing optimisation of labour and other resources demonstrating full auditable transactions and clear visibility to our customers


Bawdsey Haulage a company operating for a 20,000 sq. ft. warehouse with two separate parking areas, handling containers from it’s location just outside the gates of Felixstowe port the largest facility of it’s type in the country, this purchase strengthened the position in the container marketplace. 

Through Cybit equipment and software the distribution business moved into new areas of technology fitting tracking devices to the entire fleet and integrating the data with the TMS (Transport Management System) and certain retail software to enable valuable location information to be available with the press of a key.

Kerry Foods increased it’s activity within the network by awarding Hilsea the distribution of the cooked pastry goods from the Poole production site to customers national. 

10 acres of adjacent land in Spalding were purchased, having successfully grown the facility it now needed to protect it’s self from becoming land-locked and the area to the north of the site provided the prefect solution, part of the deal included a new road to the main site.

Total picked product reaches a record weekly total in excess of ONE MILLION cases across the distribution business, another significant achievement !!!


Following a 3 year property search and after almost securing two previouslyFowler Welch Heywood selected facilities finally "The Hub" in Heywood was purchased. This site doubled the total warehouse capacity overnight by adding 500,000 sq. ft.

The property built on 22 acres in total formed a large investment demonstrating the confidence in the ability to bring a positive service culture to a sector perceived as behind in terms of meeting the 24/7 demands of their customers. Day 1 for Day 2 deliveries alien to some but "the norm" in a chill environment allows us to offer a complete service as we do in the mature chilled sector.

Following extensive improvements and the commitment of the entire Fowler Welch team this site has attracted greater interest from the marketplace steadily growing this arm of the business. 

A contract with the Mars group commenced during 2010 and has continued to expand year on year making a top ten entry by 2012


After receiving a 1 million pound refurbishment the Spalding No2 warehouse was ready again to open it’s doors for business, with a conversion that transformed the building in both capacity and appearance, the ceiling internally was raised from 5.5 metres to over 11 metres allowing the capacity to increase from 2,000 to 4,000 pallets.

Externally the frontage had been renewed and the whole area completely made over, improved facilities for staff including offices all made this warehouse attractive to potential customers so much so soon after completion the store was filled (early 2012) the Spalding site is expected to be picking in excess of 1 million cases by the end of 2012 only 7 years after the first case was picked in the very same building for Bernard Matthews.

Newton Abbot opens, Tesco had for some time wanted to extend the "Washington Express model" with a preference to mirror the operation in the South West. It was in July 2011 FWC opened a converted building massively enhanced to fulfil this requirement.

Exactly 12 weeks to the day from arriving on site the team had turned an ambient shell into a fully temperature controlled distribution hub capable of delivering a full service equal to that provided in Washington, a complete success from the start !


Continuing to gain additional business from several existing customers the Store and Jim Welch WayPick story adds another solution for Kerry Foods with the outsourcing to our Spalding warehouse the complete finished goods range from the Kerry Spalding bakery, over a period of three weeks the stock transferred into the refurbished No2 warehouse

Vimto, Coors and Morning foods supplies were added into the overall storage and distribution from Heywood continuing the build up of stock held at the Hub moving towards the targets set

Paddock Wood site re-commenced picking operations with the start up of Winterbotham Darby & Co storing and distributing nationally using the FWC network

The completed new entrance to the Spalding site was officially named by Mrs Mary Welch in memory of our larger than life founder Jim Welch a fitting tribute to a great character.