Bristol Sweet Mart

Bristol Sweet Mart, St Mark’s Road shopping area

Company: Bristol Sweet Mart
Business: Independent food retailer/wholesaler & delicatessen
Address: 71- 84 St. Marks Road, Bristol BS5 6JH
Tel: 0117 9512257 (Retail)
Owner: Majothi family
Website: www.sweetmart.co.uk; E: sales@sweetmart.co.uk

Bristol Sweet Mart was established in 1978 by Mr. Kassam Majothi, a Ugandan refugee who immigrated to the UK. This well known food retail business began as a simple one-shop family business selling Indian home-made foods in Easton. Located in the heart of a vibrant local community, the business has expanded along St. Marks Road now offering a local food shop, a wholesale service plus a new delicatessen, which is the brainchild of family members Rashid and his wife Tehseen. Its product range has grown to include specialist Indian and exotic foods, fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a wide selection of herbs and spices.

The business is now managed by Mr Majothi’s four sons, who attribute their success to meeting customers’ needs, clean and hygienic premises, a large range of local and organic as well as exotic food products plus helpful friendly staff. Bristol Sweet Mart stocks 11,000 different products in store and sells on-line via its website. They try to source their products locally and from the UK, Europe and Asia. Around 30% of their range of fresh produce and dairy products are sourced locally and from the SW region. They buy in bulk goods from Essential Trading based in Bristol and Queenswood based at Bridgwater. The business promotes local sourcing and has experienced an increase in demand for local and organic foods from their regular customers. The eldest son Abdul commented “awareness of the importance of local food has increased since the start of the recession, food is an ‘affordable luxury’ and local people are interested in contributing towards reducing carbon emissions”.

The business is very much part of the local community and has built a loyal customer base. In total around 80% of its sales are to local customers, Bristol restaurants and cafes. It supplies over 100 Indian restaurants, take aways and specialist food outlets in the Bristol area including the Thali Café and Café Maitreya. The rest of its sales are to customers and businesses across the SW region. The new delicatessen is succeeding in generating around 10% of current sales. It sells a wide range of cooked Indian deli foods that are prepared on the premises in their own kitchens. The business owns 4 branded delivery vans which make wholesale deliveries in the Bristol area. On-line sales are dispatched via DHL couriers and Post Office. They are planning to expand delicatessen sales by opening new branches next year and possibly a Cookery School.

The business is planning to develop sales to local schools, colleges and hospitals. Sweet Mart believes in promoting ‘healthy eating’ and fostering interest in international foods and ‘fusion cuisine’. Every month they are supplying 1000s of local customers, alongside many restaurants and cafes, plus some schools and hospitals, both sectors with which they are keen to expand trade. This family business employs over 50 staff of which almost 20 are family members. The business generates several million pounds worth of trade every year.

The family have developed and diversified Sweet Mart’s food retail business in response to the rich variety of cultures and communities within Bristol. They regard this diversity as one of the strengths of Bristol’s food system and over the years they have responded by stocking Polish, Kosovan and Japanese foods, alongside more traditional Indian and European products. However, like other retailers their supplies of imported foods were affected by the volcanic ash cloud, making local sourcing a higher priority. As a second generation food retail business they have benefited from being able to source many of the skills they have needed from within the family including web-sales and marketing, design and packaging. Like other businesses during the recession, they are aware of limited access to affordable finance plus rising interest rates as they have partly self financed several new projects. Abdul remarked that access to training and support in for example IT, retail sales, health and safety would be helpful to develop their staff team’s professional skills.

Bristol Sweet Mart holds a special place in the city’s local food sector. Local chefs are able to source a wide range of world and local foods to create a rich variety of cuisine. In addition, for many years Sweet Mart has supported the St Mark’s Road Street Party in August, providing local people and visitors with opportunities to taste exotic home-cooked dishes. It is now planning to build on this legacy by helping to motivate young people and families to learn how to prepare healthy foods through cooking classes. In the 1990s Abdul was Chairman of BEST supporting community enterprise and new entrepreneurs. These days the family is employing young talented people at Sweet Mart to develop the new delicatessen and web-sales. They are planning to develop new trade with buying groups across the city, SW region, UK and Europe. Bristol City Council has recognised the late founder of Bristol Sweet Mart, Mr Kassam Majothi, for his contribution to the local community and food economy with a plaque on St Marks Road in honour of his achievements.

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