60 Years of Excellence: The Journey of Arthur David, Food with Service

A question we often get asked is, how did we get this far? So let's start from the beginning...

In 1962 Arthur David spent £3,500 on a property in Hill Street, Totterdown and established A. David – Fruit & Potato Merchant. Arthur worked alone, storing stock in the basement, delivering in his old post office van and in any spare moment was mentored by Alfie Howe who taught Arthur the art of selling. In that same year our now MD Phil David was born - so Arthur really had his hands full!

The next few years were busy! Arthur bought a flatbed Austin Lorry, followed by a Bedford and then a Bedford TK. He was buying fruit and veg in Baldwin Street and selling locally and in Melksham to village shops, schools and hospitals. 20-hour days were not uncommon but all of his hard work was paying off. Arthur was building a great reputation and in 1967 sold an entire lorry full of sprouts!

1969 marked the move to Cotham and just a year later we moved to Hillside Farm, our current Headquarters. Arthur David was the first company to offer prepared vegetables in Bristol and we are proud to say we were even selling chips to M&S. But even then, Arthur David still made the types of decisions we are applauded for today, if our heads get turned we double down to protect our attention and our quality. The team focussed on the Wholesale side of the business while allocating specific people and funds to develop the prepared produce department at Hillside and kept quality and customer satisfaction at the fore. By 1972 we were running 14 Bedford lorries and had 20 staff members. We had a fantastic supportive team who all felt they were part of the family – even little Phil was working with his Dad (although he probably should have been at school!)

In the 80’s we grew to a team of over 30 people, all working hard alongside Arthur and the family to grow the company and our customer base - it worked! In 1982 we began serving three of the major hospitals in the area including the Bath Royal United, The Bristol Royal Infirmary and Southmead Hospital. In 1983 we began supplying Brewers Fayre Pubs and by 1984 we were working with a huge number of schools in Bristol. We were on fire!

By the 90’s we were a team of 120 people and growing. While all around us, businesses were worried about Y2K, we moved into a market unit and did away with our previous sales model. Jon Evans (managing director) joined the business and we received our first STS food safety accreditation for our preparation room – the first certificate of many. As we grew, we moved into a bigger unit in the fruit market and were rewarded for our investment with the Eldridge Pope Brewery contract – this was big business for us.

2004 Saw the purchase of a new distribution centre at Hengrove and the beginning of a thriving relationship with PSL. In 2005 however, we embraced even further change with a shift in our vehicle strategy and the launch of a new strapline adorning all of our vans and assets – delivering a world of difference.

2006 was a tough year for us, a very tough year, we lost a lot of money and the result was the first ever redundancies made by the company in 2007. When you are a family business, losing anyone is hard but making people redundant is even harder. We did not sit on our laurels, but joined the United Consortium, enabling us to serve Hilton Hotel Group and begin to grow again. We invested in ourselves once again, backing our customers and our people. We launched our first Fine Foods range led by Simon Cocking and appointed Daren Hill, making us all health and safety mad! We also consolidated our properties so we prepared the farm to be our new home for the business.

March of 2009 was a full on month, with all units moving to the farm from Hengrove, in fact many of the management team slept at the farm for a week to ensure they were around should any of the team need them – at any hour. We began buying Cheddar Valley strawberries from Graham Warren and in 2010 installed a new version of ISSAC, our monitoring and management system – rumour has it this led to another week-long sleepover at the farm! This period also saw us purchase automated scales for the pick room and celebrate our very first order from Boston Tea Party.

Our fleet of branded HGVs was again renewed and we took to the roads in a new way by sponsoring the Chew Valley 10k for the first time. Ensuring every runner was renewed with an Arthur David banana at the finish line.

We built new offices on the farm for the accounts team and began sponsoring our first category in the Bristol Good Food Awards.

We took a group of client chefs to Rungis market in France too. Rungis is the largest fresh produce market in Europe selling meat, fish, cheese and fruit ‘n’ veg. We also started working with Rob Carter. Rob was initially our business coach and later became a non executive director to Arthur David. He helped us stay focused and supported our strategic direction, Rob is no longer with the business.

2015 saw us purchase another business. Andy Moore (account manager) had a family run fruit & veg supply business that operated from a base in Chard. We visited Andy when we heard he was looking to sell and took over all of his customers, offering them a much larger range of products and the advantages that came with a larger business such as chilled delivery vehicles, customer contact centre and earlier deliveries.

We went on to gain a BRC certification (now called BRCGS) which is a global food safety standard certification and ensures that we have systems and processes to keep the safety, quality & legality of our products and service at the forefront of what we do. It was a no brainer for us!


When Covid hit and the UK closed down, our foodservice business fell off a cliff – no hospitality, no schools, no manufacturing. In an effort to keep our people working, our business wheel turning and serve the needs of the public, all grappling with a locked down world, we started a home delivery business. This was harder than it sounds – all of our products are packaged ready for commercial kitchens – but we did our best and ended up turning over £1m in sales. We planned for the worst in order to be prepared for whatever came. We planned for nearly 200 redundancies but thankfully only had to make 50 (although of course losing even one person hurt!). We borrowed £800k from the bank but thanks to our proactive credit control and penny perfect finance team we never had to use it. When hospitality began to re-open we had a very challenging time getting everything back up and running to pre-covid levels. But, as ever, our management and our people were incredible. From the marketing team delivering orders to the MD packing boxes. Packers and the prep room working double shifts. The dedication was mind blowing.

Incredibly in 2021 Arthur David had its best ever year financially but the senior team nearly fell over in the process. It was tough going, gruelling at times but our customers were all in it with us. Everyone was doing all they could to keep their business, and the food industry in the South West afloat. A huge increase in domestic holidays put added pressure onto the tourism market but again – you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines and after 2020 everyone was ready to make hay! Our focus didn’t just turn to sales and delivery though – we also retained our AA grade BRCGS certification once again. We were pleased to be able to pay a Covid bonus to all employees that had worked throughout the pandemic and took delivery of 30 new box vans ready for the brand refresh. And once again, we look to the future while enjoying the present – leave it with us, we’ve got it covered!

So, to put things into perspective, it's been one hell of a journey!!

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For more information contact our Customer Excellence team

0330 333 4441 | info@adavid.co.uk