The eye-catching graphics applied to its latest Mercedes-Benz vans earned Cumbria’s Caterite Food & Wineservice a place on the shortlist for a prestigious industry award.
Supplied by Scottish Dealer Western Commercial, the wholesaler’s 12 Sprinter 316 CDI Long chassis cabs are powered by smooth, responsive four-cylinder engines which produce a sprightly 163 hp and drive through automatic transmissions.
They are fitted with insulated, dual compartment (chilled and frozen) bodies by specialist manufacturer Solomon Commercials, of Rossendale, Lancashire, and Hubbard refrigeration units.
Family-owned Caterite operates from headquarters in Cockermouth. Its distinctive vans have quickly become a familiar site on the roads of the Lake District – where it is a prominent member of the local business community – and south-west Scotland.
Although it fell at the final hurdle in the Livery of the Year category of the Motor Transport Awards 2018, Caterite won praise from judges for moving away from a traditional, corporate look, to a colourful, variable design which employs different images on different vehicles, while maintaining uniformity.
The company’s investment and pride in the livery was particularly commendable given its modest size relative to fellow finalists. One judge said Caterite had demonstrated a strong, strategic approach to the redesign and produced “a great and striking update”, while another described it as “a creative expression of the company’s services executed well in the design”.
Caterite operates a multi-temperature delivery fleet of 24 vans and 18 rigid trucks. All but three of its vans are now by Mercedes-Benz – the latest Sprinters have replaced products by two other manufacturers – while every one of its heavier vehicles wears a three-pointed star with the exception of a single 7.5-tonner.
The company has been supplying hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs, guest houses and other caterers across the Lake District with the finest produce for more than 40 years. Through its contract with motorway services owner Westmorland, it also sends vehicles regularly to its customer’s award-winning establishment on the M5 at Gloucester. Fiercely proud of its Cumbrian roots, Caterite sources much of its stock locally, though its vast range also includes items from elsewhere in the UK and, indeed, overseas.
Caterite’s preference in the past has been for converted panel vans; it ran only one box-bodied example previously. The fact that all of the vehicles supplied by Western Commercial are chassis cabs reflects the growth in demand for its products, and the corresponding need to maximise payloads – each of the most recent additions to its fleet offers a carrying capacity of approximately one tonne.
Caterite Transport Manager Matthew Scott explained: “Twelve vehicles represents a significant investment so it was not one that we made lightly. We did consider a couple of other makes of van, and even tried a demonstrator at one point, though it was quickly discounted as it didn’t ‘cut the mustard’. I doubt very much that it would have lasted the course.
“Ultimately, our preference was always going to be for the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, because it’s a tried and trusted workhorse. The roads in this part of the world can be pretty challenging – many of them were built for horses and carts, rather than motor vehicles – and we use our vans pretty intensively for eight years and more, during which they’ll typically cover 50,000 miles a year.
“We know from experience that the Sprinter can take the punishment and won’t let us down. It’s also cost-effective to operate and leads the field when it comes to safety, while our drivers enjoy the experience at the wheel, too. As a complete package, nothing else comes close.”
Mr Scott praised the response of Western Commercial’s Group New Van Sales Manager Joe Scott to his initial enquiry. “Joe was very supportive from the outset, and at no stage did we have to push for information,” he recalled. “Western won our order because they combined the best approach with a very competitive price.”
Hannah Moran, Creative Lead at Caterite, added: “We’ve been receiving a lot of positive feedback about our updated branding, which matches our company ethos in being young, creative and fun. A customer at a farm shop in Penrith complimented us recently on a ‘a fresh look which is unlike any other supplier’s’, while one of our drivers says his grandchildren think the omelette pictured on the side of his Sprinter looks good enough to eat!”