Fast facts

Name of business:
Nationwide Produce PLC

Managing Director:
Patrick O’Malley

Business description:



Contact number:
01704 540400

WHEN it comes to growing the bottom line the board of directors at Nationwide Produce PLC certainly know their onions.

In fact they make it their business to.

nationwide produce

That’s because the onion is one of the staple ingredients in the firm’s remarkable success, having sprouted from humble beginnings in Southport into an international business that operates from nine locations across Europe.

In 2015, Nationwide sold 54,000 tonnes of onions, which accounted for more than 16% of the company’s £108 million annual turnover.

Of the 278 products Nationwide currently supplies to its customers worldwide, the onion is now the firm’s best-selling line.  Overall, Nationwide supplies 278 types of produce and other foods, ranging from cucumbers to cactus figs, to customers in 27 countries, from Greece to Jersey.

However, keeping supermarket shelves from Walsall to Warsaw well-stocked with the freshest possible produce 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year is no mean feat: it requires meticulous planning, an international network of growers, the ability to track the sun, and some rather clever produce

“A lot of people think an onion is an onion. It’s grown in the ground and it just pops up on the shelf,” says Patrick O’Malley, Managing Director of Nationwide.

“But a lot of planning goes into guaranteeing that all year round supply.

“Take onions, for example. We’ll take UK produce for nine months of the year, but then we’ll swap to the southern hemisphere and pull produce out of Chile or New Zealand.

“Then when we come back into the northern hemisphere again, we’ll go from Egypt to Spain, before coming back to the UK. We are effectively following the sun to guarantee supply all year round.”

Nationwide was established in Southport in 1975 by Patrick’s father, Bernard O’Malley, and has flourished into one of the largest produce companies in the UK, proving that family businesses can work very well indeed.

nationwide produce

Bernard is still the figurehead and chairman of the company. Sons Patrick and Anthony are based in the Southport HQ, whilst their brother Tim is based in Spalding, the hub of the UK produce industry.

Until recently the firm focused on vegetable and salad lines but the opening of a new fruit department – Vitaal Fruit - in 2015 means they are now able to offer ‘the full basket of goods’.

Typical customers include caterers, supermarkets, processing companies, and export and wholesale markets.

In the early days the vast majority of produce was sourced from the UK but the vagaries of the British weather, coupled with an increased demand for more exotic flavours, prompted Nationwide to establish a procurement, storage and trans-shipping operation called Vitaal Europe in Poeldijk near Rotterdam in 2004.

Then five years later Nationwide Espana opened near El Ejido in the fertile growing province of Almeria in Spain.

“Going back only a few years, we used to be 75% UK and 25% imported but as time has gone by we are now 40% UK and 60% imported. In 2015, for instance, we bought produce from 804 suppliers across 75 countries,” says Patrick.

“We still promote the British goods very heavily but if we have any issues with the supply of UK produce due to things like the weather then we can’t turn round to our customers and say ‘we’ll have to leave that for a few days and wait until it stops raining’ – we have to continue to supply.

“We’ve therefore had to become more of a European business. We can pull produce from all over the world if we have to, but we are particularly strong out of Europe now that we have our own bases in Spain and Holland, which gives us a competitive advantage.”

Through continuous growth and development, Nationwide’s turnover has increased from £2m in 1988 to £108m currently.

Along the way the group has won many accolades, including the Sunday Times export award (twice) and it was named as one of the fastest growing companies in the UK by the Independent newspaper three years running.

“We’ve done it all by organic growth - there have been no acquisitions along the way – and a big part of that success has been down to finding the right people who slot into our way of working and buy into our values,” says Patrick.

“Another thing we’ve done in recent years is invest heavily in IT - probably far more than our competitors have done.

“In our job speed is a big thing. Because a lot of the produce is so perishable, you have to get goods out to the customer quickly to give them the maximum time for freshness.

“Being able to process orders quickly and then passing that information on to suppliers, packers, and transporters as efficiently as possibly is crucial. Investing heavily in IT has given us a real edge in that area.”

A further key ingredient in Nationwide’s success is the close relationship the firm enjoys with Cassons, and in particular Cassons’ Client Relationship Partner Peter Johnson.

Patrick says: “We’ve worked very closely with Cassons for what must be 25 years now and really trust their advice.

“As the business has grown we’ve set up structures in different countries, which means we are bound by different laws and regulations, so Peter’s advice and guidance has been invaluable, particularly in terms of integrating all of the businesses into the accounting function.”

Peter Johnson, Cassons Client Relationship Partner explained further: “Cassons have had a relationship with Nationwide for many years and I feel very privileged to hold the client relationship role with them.  


Peter Johnson

“This period has been a very exciting one for the company as they have developed significantly their trading networks both overseas and within the UK. "

Peter Johnson, Cassons Client Relationship Partner  

“The team have some great ideas for taking the business forward and I like to think that we have been there to help them at every step along the way.   

“As well as advising on strategic matters and technical issues when setting up new trading arrangements, we are also there for the day to day issues such as setting up a work place pension scheme.”

Patrick O Malley concluded: “In many ways our companies share the same values. We see our business as a ‘people business’ and the same is also true of Cassons, where they have a close team of people who work very conscientiously on our behalf.

“It means Cassons have a very deep understanding of our business, and they have done from day one, which is why the relationship works so well.”





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