Distell has been involved in the Absa Business Day Supplier Development Awards since its inception in 2018. During that time, the company has redefined the metrics to assess scale and pace, including the speed from ideation to inception to on-boarding.

In 2019, Distell was recognised as the overall winner at the Absa Business Supplier Development Awards based on the company’s long-term programme and results. In particular, judges applauded the company’s approach to collaboration with other large, often competing, corporate entities and the value Distell placed on partnerships. Particularly noteworthy was Distell’s collaboration with Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) to increase the footprint of apple orchards supplying both Coca-Cola and Distell, amongst others.

The judges commended Distell’s enterprise and supplier development (ESD) drive which was – and remains – focused on creating value for staff, suppliers, shareholders and the communities within which the company operates. Distell, said the judges, has a genuine commitment to supplier development and appears fully committed to building and diversifying its supplier base, with efforts that extend well beyond the scorecard given the fact that the company actively pursues higher levels of innovation, efficiency, opportunities and values partnerships.

“One of the biggest challenges for newly established companies, particularly black-owned companies, is accessing opportunities,” explains Charles Wyeth, ESD manager at Distell. “Companies tend to guard their relationships carefully, particularly if the supplier is a well-run black owned business. Our philosophy at Distell is somewhat different: if we can position one of our suppliers to supply products or services to a competitor, we’ll do so happily. Scale opens up a multitude of opportunities for smaller companies.”

As a result of this philosophy, Distell has assisted with investing in an agricultural sector transformation programme to increase yields in apple farms, despite the fact that only about 15% of apple crops will be destined for juicing. The company provides off-take agreements and access to technical support to apple farmers as well as fruit marketers for domestic and international markets.

The Distell ESD strategy and action plan is fully aligned with the company’s support for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 17 (Partnerships) and 8, which is about creating decent work opportunities and contributing to economic growth.

“In a low growth economy, new business opportunities are limited and margins are small,” says Wyeth. “This makes it a particularly challenging environment for smaller businesses which don’t have the benefit of bigger production runs or mass procurement. We believe it’s important to help smaller businesses access new business opportunities beyond your own supply chain. Collaboration with peers and competitors can give these businesses a boost when they need it most!”