The Distributors, a cooperative of independent, local P&C focused transport and logistics companies, came together in Sydney this week for the National ‘Tomorrow and Beyond’ Conference, where distributors were joined by product and service suppliers, key retailers and industry experts to learn, focus, plan and celebrate.

The pandemic bought the role of all supply chain participants into sharp relief for many Australian consumers, however in petrol and convenience, where deep product offerings are combined with ever evolving new product lines and local delivery pressures, the importance of the ‘into store’ element of the supply chain has never been far from operators minds.  This often hidden (at least from the customer) element of the supply chain is absolutely vital to the success of independent P&C operators.  The Distributors have proven themselves over and again to be more than a supplier to be a partner in success, delivering the local, customised and exceptional service that retailers demand.

This core commitment to service is a fundamental tenant of The Distributors as a group, a commitment that was woven throughout the conference.

“Retailer, Supplier and Distributors need to work together to focus on having the right product in the right location at the right time at the right price, so that our consumers continue to shop, support and seek local”  says George Tsapoutas, CEO of The Distributors.

“For us as Distributors, it is all about SERVICE!  We are known for our service and we have to ensure that we continue to focus and deliver that exceptional service every day for our customers.  This is critical to our long term success”, continued George.

This message was heard loud and clear by the cooperative members in the Member Only Session on Day 1, where Mr Tsapoutas provided members with an update on the results of the previous year and the projects planned for the coming year.

Held on the impressive floating venue – The Jackson – Day 1 opened with a Distributor Member Only Session before the broader supplier and partner delegates were invited to join for some learning and networking on the glittering Sydney Harbour.

Members received an update on internal delivery platforms as well as several insights presentations on key channel performance and technology developments, as well as an employment compliance workshop lead by ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

After a networking lunch delegates were provided with network, market and economic updates before Adam Spencer terrified and delighted the delegates with an expert overview of AI in all its amazing and evolving facets.

After a full day learning (and soaking in Sydney at her absolute finest) delegates kicked back and watched the sunset at the cocktail event presented by StrangeLove Beverage Co.

The early birds got a jump on Day 2 with a Superboosted city walk…complete with Sydney Roosters Halfback and rising star, Sam Walker

Day 2 kicked off for everyone else when the suppliers, distributors, retailers and experts came together for the “speedating” style Pitch Deck Sessions.  Again seeing suppliers sitting down together explore offerings in a tight 20 minutes per meeting.

Day 2 finished up with the Twisties Chicken v Cheese Showdown Dinner at the Dockside presented by PepsiCo where childhood dreams of food fights and magic shows really did come to life.

Day 3 the Pitch Deck Sessions continued for the morning.  After lunch the Adam Spencer returned to do a functional deep dive into AI and its practical applications in the FMCG product marketing and distribution space.

The conference wrapped up with the black tie Gala Dinner which was the venue for the presentation of the annual Excellence Awards.

The Distributors Excellence Award Winners 2024

  • Best Supplier DIFOT Award: Red Bull 98.6%
  • Supplier of the Year $1m-$5m: LeVel Beverages
  • Supplier of the Year $6m-$20m: Bundaberg Brewed Drinks
  • Best Product Launch Beverage: V Refresh Green Apple
  • Best Product Launch Snack: Twisties Cinnamon Doughnuts
  • Best Product Launch Confectionery: KitKat Milky Bar
  • Best Product Launch Novelty: Chupa Chups – Sour Bites
  • Supplier of the Year over $20m: Snackbrands Australia
  • Supplier of the Year Over $50m: Pepsico
  • Member of the Year under $20m: Central Coast Confectionery
  • Member of the Year over $20m: The Distributors Brisbane
  • Sales Representative of the Year: Renee Creasey

Not a feature of every year, 2024 saw a rare induction of a member into the Hall of Fame:

Wayne Henderson (Universal Candy) The Distributors Hall Of Fame Inductee

The party kicked on late into the evening at the Zephyr Sky Bar courtesy of Red Bull.

ACAPMA congratulates to The Distributors on a fabulous event and acknowledges the critical role they play in the healthy operation of the industry.

“It is often underestimated the special relationship The Distributors have with retailers, but I am always reminded of a great story from one of my members” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

The Distributors:  Going the extra mile

“We are committed to delivering for our customers.  We are competitive on price, we offer a deep and wide range, but you absolutely cant go past our service” adds George.

“The story I often tell is of one of our customers who was doing a community event on a Sunday and found that they forgot to order a box of a particular chocolate bar.  They called their Distributor, who, being a small business, took the call, popped into the warehouse and grabbed the box, put it into the back of his car and drove it over to the event.  That is the kind of service you don’t get from the average product delivery service.  Our Distributors are local, family business operators and they live and work in these communities too, they go the extra mile for their customers” continues George.

One of The Distributors network, JB Metropolitan Distributors, was highlighted recently for displaying this commitment to going above and beyond for their customers.  Local fuel retailer Eddy Nader (Urbanista) was gearing up for the Christmas crazy time when his ice supplier called with devastating news.  “Four of his drivers had caught COVID, while the other warehouse staff had been placed in isolation as close contacts.  I was not going to get any ice for Christmas because he couldn’t get it to me.  This is our busiest time for ice all year.  I put in a call to our local confectionery and frozen supplier, Steven Hochbaum from JB Metro, and let him know I was in trouble and could I please borrow one of his freezer trucks for a couple of days to get my ice.  Steve didn’t blink.  He didn’t even hesitate.  He said ‘come pick it up and keep it with you until the New Year’” explains Eddy.

“I really feel for our ice supplier, Lidcombe Ice, they have supplied us for over 30 years and I know they did not ask for COVID shortages to impact my deliveries.  But thanks to the amazing support of JB Metro, and the cooperation of Lidcombe Ice, I was able to keep the stores stocked and selling ice.  That kind of loyalty and support is something you never forget.  That is service you never walk away from.  I can’t thank JB Metro, Steven and the whole Spiteri family enough.  Us small businesses need to support each other and stick together” adds Eddy.

Going the extra mile is part of The Distributors DNA, it is inherent in their model.  “The foundation of what we do is maintain relationships and service.  We care.  These customers are our friends, they are part of our communities and we will always bend over backwards to get them what they need to keep them moving, selling and successful” adds George.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)