Cambro's vast mastery

While most who are approaching their 65th year would be thinking about retirement, in the case of Cambro Manufacturing, it is going from strength to strength.

Having been created by William and Argyle Campbell in 1951 in California, USA (Cambro is short for Campbell Brothers), the catering equipment brand spread all over the world and now produces a massive 14,000 light equipment and food storage products.

The original William Campbell’s son, also called Argyle, heads up the enterprise, ensuring it remains a privately-owned family business. It prides itself on creating products for the foodservice industry solely.

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Unusually, all corners of the globe are locally served in key product categories by its 100% owned and operated manufacturing or distribution centres.

The factories are in Raleigh, USA; Stuttgart, Germany; Istanbul, Turkey; Huizhou, China, as well as its Huntington Beach, USA, HQ. These are supported by additional distribution facilities in Los Angeles, USA; Ontario, Canada; and Mumbai, India.

In Europe, distribution is managed by the Stuttgart base, which also has a showroom on hand for training. While in the UK, Cambro works with wholesaler, Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM), which holds the most popular Cambro lines for the UK market so that it can immediately pass this stock onto the distributor network when required. [[page-break]]

However, if there are any special requests, FEM will liaise with Cambro’s German division and there will be a lead time for the manufacturer to ship over the desired range.

Cambro does have several of its own ‘roving’ sales representatives on hand for UK dealers, however.

The team is headed up by Brian Lavelle, UK and Ireland national accounts manager, who commented: “If there is a specific dealer request for training, FEM will call us up, because we perform training virtually every day; we are the experts.”

Certain national distributor accounts with large order values work directly with Cambro, such as Lockhart, Nisbets or Grey Simmonds, but Lavelle detailed that he helps to train all UK dealers’ sales staff.

“We can carry out end user calls with them, store safe assessments and safety audits – we don’t just concentrate on the big players. Everyone has something to offer and as long as they are supporting Cambro, we’ll support them as well.”

The store safe assessments comprise analysing an operator’s storage solutions and advising them how they could improve this. Lavelle has previously encountered hygienic nightmare situations such as ingredients being stored in unwashed ice cream tubs and food such as meat being placed, uncovered, on shelving. [[page-break]]

Lavelle visits one dealer a week for training sessions, on average. Plus around one distributor a month is invited to visit the Stuttgart office.

“There are so many dealers in the UK that by the time a new product comes out, it’s time to bring them back for more training,” he commented.

However, he feels a little frustrated at what can be high staff turnover at some dealers. “People join distributors but they don’t look at it as a career. And I wonder why, because they have flexibility in their lifestyles, they can work their own hours and everyone in the industry is well looked after.

“We spend hours training these people up and spending time with them, and they move on. We then have to start training their replacements from scratch.”

For each dealer, Cambro tailors requirements to their specialist sectors. “If they’re more of a pub and restaurant distributor, we’ll focus on glass racks, gastronorm pans and shelving,” said Lavelle. “But if they concentrate on fast food chains then we will look at products such as trays and utensils suitable for turning out fast food products.”

In the UK, Cambro’s fastest selling items are its gastronorm pans and its range of shelving. According to Lavelle: “All Camshelving lines and our storage containers are HACCP compliant, so the shelving never rusts and the containers are almost unbreakable and easy to clean.” [[page-break]]

He detailed how the manufacturer is constantly developing its dealer relationships. “Because we are a new product company, we have always got a reason to be in front of our customers. It’s important to always have something fresh to talk about.”

The UK is a key region for Cambro, as it is the manufacturer’s third biggest market in Europe. Its market share across all its foodservice product sectors is around 50-55% in this country.

“What we find in the UK is that a lot of domestic US chains come over and see what we think of a concept before they roll it out to mainland Europe,” explained Lavelle.

“So from a Cambro point of view, if there’s no product specified in the US, then I or my colleagues will try our best to get other products specified to go into the rest of Europe. The legislation and practices in the US aren’t always the same as in Europe, so there’s always market share to grab.”

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