Five minutes with…Gavin McNally, Managing Director, Royal Sanders UK

Five minutes with…Gavin McNally, Managing Director, Royal Sanders UK
Published: 13 April 2022

In our latest ‘Five minutes with…’ interview, Richard Guest, Associate Partner and Head of the Procurement practice at Berwick Partners spoke with Gavin McNally, Managing Director of Royal Sanders UK about the challenges the business has faced over the past couple of years with the impact of COVID, shifting customer demand and also the brand new role he has in his team.

Tell me a little bit about your career to date?

I knew from an early age that I wanted to pursue a career within the FMCG sector and opted to undertake a Production Engineering degree that gave me a good broad platform to forge a career in this space. I joined Christian Salvesen on a fast-track graduate management scheme and left after four years to join the Birds Eye side of Unilever - this gave exposure to a new factory build and functional areas of planning and logistics.

At this point I was 9 years into my career and eager to keep progressing into a management role. I took the decision to move on from Unilever and deliberately sought out a role within a smaller, more nimble organisation, joining Tryton Foods as Planning & Distribution Manager just as they were launching their Aunt Bessie’s brand. This was a fantastic period in my career and gave me the progression I was craving, with a promotion to Supply Chain Director and then taking on additional responsibility as the Sales Director. I left after 10 enjoyable years with the business to take on my first Managing Director role in 2007 with Parripak Foods, before moving to Chingford Fruit in the same capacity.

With 6 years’ experience operating at MD level, I moved out of food for the first time in 2016 to join Royal Sanders as their Managing Director, which in turn gave me my first experience working within a PE business. Since then, I have taken the business through a significant period of growth and transformation.

Is there a role in your career which has been pivotal to your success?

The move to Tryton Foods was a key move in my career. I left a very mature, best practice global business in Unilever to go to a family-owned organisation who were in the process of launching a new brand. This was a daunting step, but one that I was eager to seize which ultimately gave me far greater exposure, far more quickly that I would have received at Unilever. It opened my eyes to the agility and advantage of working within a SME environment with regards to speed of decision making and ability to get things done.

I look back on this move as firstly a hugely enjoyable period of my life both professional and individually but one that unquestionably shaped my career to date.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, and how has it shaped you both as a leader and a person?

I recall this piece of advice from a senior manager at Unilever, who recognised my potential and desire to quickly move upwards within the business, with the phrase ‘get out, get experience elsewhere and come back in at senior management level’.

Whilst remaining within Unilever would unquestionable have given me opportunities to progress, the speed at which I developed and exposure I gained in the immediate aftermath of my departure, would never have been equalled let alone surpassed had I remained with the business. The message was ‘be brave, take a risk, leave the comfort zone and back yourself to make a real difference within a smaller more agile organisation’.

Having stepped out of the large corporate world, I never saw the need to return. I have experienced the increased exposure, responsibility and turn of pace you typically see within an SME environment.

What challenges are Royal Sanders facing in the next 12-18 months?

The last 5-6 years have been a challenging period as we grew the business 4-fold whilst also having to plan and adapt around Brexit, COVID and the current situation in Ukraine, which have all, for varying reasons, put significant stress on the global supply chains.

We are seeing price increases across the board, challenges of availability of products and layered across all of this, a huge drive for sustainability. We are continually working on innovation both with our suppliers, customers and through our own inhouse R&D team.

Our plans are to continue to steadily grow our market share in the UK and also expand into mainland Europe, either organically or via acquisition - growth is always a challenge, particularly when you factor in some of these issues. A key part of this plan is to ensure we remain competitive with a robust and innovative supply chain in place, able to react to changes in the market and to support our future growth plans.

Tell me a little bit about the Head of Procurement vacancy in your team.

This is a great blank canvas opportunity for an energetic and ambitious procurement professional to join Royal Sanders as we continue to go through a period of considerable growth. The successful individual will manage a spend in excess of £40M and form a key part of a dynamic senior leadership team that is agile and quick to react with a significant opportunity to drive real lasting change. They will be joining at a time where procurement has never been more visible of critical to the future success of the business with the appointment of a new Group Procurement Director based in the Netherlands. The role will naturally suit someone with a strong commercial mindset gained in an FMCG manufacturing environment.

For more information, please contact Richard Guest is an Associate Partner in our Procurement and Supply Chain practice.

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