The link between sausage factories and snowcats

The food service distributors Johan i Hallen & Bergfalk (JHB) and R Express share high standards of quality and a clear focus on customers. But that’s not all they have in common. They also both belong to the METRO family. JHB is the newest addition, having joined the family in 2023, while R Express has been part of METRO since back in 2016. Martin Eriksson (JHB) and Oliver Weller (R Express) chat about their similarities and differences.

Martin Eriksson

☝️ Martin Eriksson - JHB

Chat history between R Express and JHB

What's it all about?

  • A portrait of two delivery specialists: JHB and R Express
  • Food quality assurance, supply chains, delivery, customer relations

👇 Oliver Weller - R Express

Oliver Weller

Martin Eriksson (JHB)

Hi, Oliver! I’m Martin from JHB, the new addition to METRO’s delivery arm. I thought I would tell you a bit about us. 👋

Oliver Weller (R Express)

Welcome to the family, Martin! 😊 Definitely – tell me all about yourselves. You’re based in Sweden, aren’t you? Your business must be quite different from ours.

Martin

I think there are quite a few similarities though, too. We deliver fresh fish, seafood and high-quality meat to more than 4,000 customers in Sweden and Finland. The majority are HoReCa chains and upmarket restaurants. We serve the same sort of customers as you, don’t we?

Oliver

For the most part, yes. We also supply delicatessens and retailers though. Every week, we deliver to 2,500 customers in Germany alone. Not to mention about 85% of Germany’s Michelin-starred restaurants. We’re more than a bit proud of that. 😇

Martin

Premium food is definitely something we have in common then.

Oliver

Oh yes. I trained as a chef myself, so I love good food and exceptional ingredients.

Martin

That’s something else we have in common, then: I also trained as a chef and kitchen manager before I started working in sales. Here’s a fun fact to remember next time you’re at a party – which European countries do you think eat the most meat and fish per person?

Oliver

… ?

Martin

Sweden and Finland. That’s why JHB specialises in sausages and specialities like Swedish meatballs. We also supply local fish and seafood.

Oliver

OK. Fish and meat are a big part of what we do too – that’s where our roots lie and this remains our focal area to this day. But we’re also noticing that our customers are increasingly looking for alternatives for their diners, so we’re offering more and more plant-based products as well.

Martin

Which categories does your product range cover?

Oliver

Fruit and vegetables, frozen food, store-cupboard essentials like herbs and spices, baking ingredients, vinegar and oil. Pretty much everything restaurateurs need every day.

Martin

We focus specifically on fresh food too.

Oliver

How do you source your fish?

Martin

We buy it fresh each day straight from local boats that call at, for example, our port in Gothenburg or from partners such as salmon farms. The challenge is sourcing the right amount. We want to offer enough freshly caught fish and shellfish every day without wasting anything. Meat is easier to work out. It keeps for longer when it’s vacuum-packed.

Oliver

Getting the quantity right is always tricky … Our customer managers are a godsend on that front. For example: imagine it’s summer. Demand for mozzarella and burrata is high, and there’s plenty in stock. Suddenly the weather turns cold. Now what? A lot of our customer managers have food service experience themselves. They work with our customers to come up with different ways of using the ingredients. Usually, it’s a success.

Martin

I can see that we face the same kind of challenges. 😉 We’re all about supplying fresh, high-quality produce. How do you approach quality management?

Oliver

We have two scouts out visiting suppliers’ premises all the time. Once we’ve received the goods – for example at our hubs in Paris or on the coast – our fleet transports them to our main transshipment centre in Meckenheim. The drivers collect the products for delivery straight from there. Because we have our own fleet, we can ensure that our customers receive the goods in exactly the same condition as they were in when we bought them.

Martin

Our distribution team uses more than 50 trucks to take produce to our meat- and fish-processing plants, which have integrated cold stores. We process it ourselves there before delivering it to our customers.

Oliver

That’s interesting. Why do you process the produce yourselves?

Martin

So that our customers can decide whether they want a whole fish or a filet, with or without skin … The feedback we get about the processing is outstanding. The same goes for the specialities we produce at our production facility, with everything from smoking, dry aging and slicing to sous-vide cooking, portion controls and sausage production. To do this well, we have to have an in-depth understanding of food service and know each customer well to understand exactly what they need.

Oliver

I completely agree. Our relationships with our customers often last for many years. Each customer has their own point of contact at our company, and even our drivers have close ties with the customers because the fleet operates the same routes. We don’t just deliver to towns and cities either – we also serve regions like the Allgäu and islands like Juist. Sometimes, a snowcat or ferry has to take care of the last few metres. 😅

Martin

We know all about that sort of thing! We deliver to all regions in Sweden and Finland. Each area poses its own challenges ... 😉 In cities, narrow roads and parking are difficult. In the countryside, remoteness may present a challenge. In the summer, walkers in the Swedish mountains wanted to eat Japanese wagyu at a restaurant. The manager asked whether we could supply some at short notice. We were able to deliver it from a warehouse in Stockholm – but that was 900 kilometres away from the restaurant, so we set off straight away. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Oliver

That’s a pretty big delivery area. How soon after ordering do your customers receive their delivery?

Martin

In the big cities, deliveries arrive on the same day. In more rural areas, a day later. Our trucks have refrigeration systems to keep the cold chain intact.

Oliver

We offer a similarly fast service. If produce arrives at our main transshipment centre between 3.00 and 5.00 p.m., the first delivery leaves the warehouse the same day at 9.00 p.m. and is delivered to the customer soon afterwards.

Martin

It’s all a question of organisation ...

Oliver

Absolutely – especially during busy periods. Think of Christmas. With 800 employees, we wouldn’t get anywhere without planning. Not to mention team spirit! 🤜🤛 Although it’s hard work, we always look forward to Christmas. Business is very brisk. Sometimes, the office workers help out with packing, getting products ready for our customers. We always – quite literally – go the extra mile.

Martin

Wow. Our workforce is much smaller, but our 350 members of staff rise to every challenge. Our company history stretches back to 1839, and our first butcher’s was opened in 1916. I’ve been at the company for 27 years myself. We’re unbeatable when it comes to efficiency. We operate 24 hours a day to counteract peaks. Now that we’re part of the METRO family, I expect we’ll become even more efficient when I think about things like joint procurement.

Oliver

That’s the great thing about being part of a family: we support one another.

Martin

Absolutely. With all our similarities and differences! 😊

About ... Martin Eriksson

Martin Eriksson is account management director at JHB. Based in Gothenburg, he has a team of five key account managers. In total, the Sales team consists of 35 people. Eriksson joined JHB 27 years ago after working as a chef and kitchen manager.

About ... Oliver Weller

Oliver Weller is one of three sales directors at R Express in Meckenheim. He joined the firm as a junior salesman in 2003 – and stayed. He thinks it’s especially important to know customers personally.

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