Innovative new methods increase payload on refrigerated vehicles
Alpine Fine Foods provides high quality goods to a range of large and small clients, coupled with excellent customer service.
Managing Director, Phil Davis, talks to us about the £12million business based in Hull and how their refrigerated vans have helped their business double in the last four years.
Alpine Fine Foods started working with CoolKit many years ago but lost commercial contact for a period as the recession took hold and Alpine changed ownership. As part of Alpine’s ambitious growth plans back in 2014 the company decided to return to the Burnley-based manufacturer.
Phil Davis explains: “We deliver six days a week to a range of customers including small sandwich shops, schools, restaurants, cafes, nursing homes, basically anyone who needs food. We realised that we were not getting full potential from our vans and believed that CoolKit could deliver a better payload than our existing fleet. Their conversions are unique in terms of how they’re constructed.
Traditional refrigerated van conversions use plywood to panel the inside of the vehicle, but CoolKit vehicles benefit from an innovative range of lighter and stronger composite materials to make the panels. This means that each vehicle can carry more weight. Our main priority was payload. We didn’t want to compromise on how much we could carry. Our orders with CoolKit absolutely gave us what we needed.”
“We realised that we were not getting full potential from our vans and believed that CoolKit could deliver a better payload than our existing fleet. Their conversions are unique in terms of how they’re constructed, making use of an innovative range of lighter and stronger composite materials to make the panels. This means that each vehicle can carry more weight. Our main priority was payload. The heavier chassis meant that we would lose 60Kg of payload per vehicle. We challenged CoolKit to come up with innovative ideas to make the vehicle lighter. They managed it by creating an even lighter conversion.”
In 2016, the introduction of Euro 6 emission standards resulted in a heavier unladen chassis of all vehicles. To achieve the payload on the Euro 6 vans, CoolKit fitted CurtAir – an air curtain that prevents cool air escaping from the vehicle, which is much lighter than the industry standard PVC strip curtains. And, taking inspiration from the aerospace industry, they installed a different load restraint system.
CoolKit also chose aluminium for the protective skirting inside the load space, an alternative high impact GRP interior surface for the side and ceiling of the vehicle which was lighter and stronger, and, instead of the traditional fibreglass and resin gelcoat flooring, they used a lighter flooring solution. All of the above was achieved without making any modifications to the base of the vehicle.
“The heavier chassis meant that we would lose 60Kg of payload per vehicle, says Phil. “We challenged CoolKit to come up with innovative ideas to make the vehicle lighter. They managed it by creating an even lighter conversion.”
Since 2015, Alpine have placed an order for 28 Renault Masters 3.5 tonne vans to help distribute high quality food across East Yorkshire.
“We have invested heavily in the company, particularly in our fleet, and we have been delighted with the quality and consistency of the conversion. If you can carry an extra 100Kg in a 1 tonne vehicle that’s a big saving. If we’re delivering to Scarborough, which is a 50-mile journey from here, we try to load the vehicle with as much as possible. That 100Kg allows us to carry 10% more, or equates to a significant saving on overheads, vehicle running costs and driver costs.”
“CoolKit has really tried to listen to their customers and they have evolved significantly.”
In the last four years, Alpine has doubled in turnover and this has been made possible with the assistance of their fleet.
Phil explains: “We are unique in that our vehicles are agile and nimble and, unlike some of our rivals, we can get into places that big vehicles can’t access. It’s a competitive market and we have to provide a good service first and foremost. People are very price conscious, but if the service levels are not what they should be your customer won’t return. Our vehicles are of high quality and so are the goods we sell. Our vans look smart and they’re kitted out to a high specification.”
All the Alpine Fine Foods vans have both a chilled and frozen section. Within the vehicle, the dimensions of each of these sections can be reconfigured for maximum flexibility. The vehicles also have a temperature recording device for those customers requiring temperature evidence. The vehicles can also be plugged in and left overnight so that they can go straight out of deliveries in the morning.
Alpine is currently investing £500,000 in a new cold storage and warehouse facilities, which will be operational this spring, with further plans for growth.
Phil adds: “We will always have a fleet of this size of vehicles and we will be looking at increasing the size of the vehicles as we start to distribute further afield – and, of course, when we do we will be speaking to CoolKit.”