AMID uncertain times for the economy an entrepreneur who is not averse to risk taking flags up downsides associated with the fall in the pound since the Brexit vote.


Magnus Swanson.



What is your business called?

Swanson’s Food Wholesalers.

Where is it based?

Inverness, with branches in Nairn and Elgin.

What services does it offer?

We supply fresh fruit and veg, dairy, grocery and much more. Our aim is to supply as much locally grown produce and as many products from the area as possible. We cover the entire Highlands and Moray from John o’ Groats to Glencoe and Skye to Huntly. Between our staff we more or less work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To whom does it sell?

We have over 1,000 customers and sell to hotels, restaurants, schools, shops and the public. Customers include: All the schools in Highland and Moray Council areas, as well as Gordonstoun School; restaurants from Sligachan and Café Sia on Skye, Glengarry Castle Hotel at Invergarry, to Rocpool and Culloden House in Inverness; several golf clubs, and the University of the Highlands and Islands. We also supply Inverness Caledonian Thistle with fruit for their players during training.

What is its turnover?

Several million.

How many employees?


When was it formed?

The first shop opened in July 1991.

Why did you take the plunge?

I had been working as a sales manager for a local wholesaler in Inverness. It was in that job that I saw just how much fruit was being sold to, amongst others, the late Ken Ramage who had seven shops. I left my job and opened my own fruit shop, Fruitique, behind Woolworths in Inverness town centre. Very soon after, Marks and Spencer started selling fruit and veg so to pay the town centre rent and rates I had to start wholesaling as well.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I come from a Caithness farming family and Plan A was to become a farmer like my Dad. I studied Agriculture at The University of Edinburgh before travelling the world for a year. I returned to the family farm, but after a year my father retired and our cousins took over. I then moved to Inverness to work for the Potato Marketing Board in 1987 and have stayed in the city ever since.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

A combination of family and banks along with my own savings and by putting our house on the line!

What was your biggest break?

Buying over competitors. It’s always a big risk, as there is no guarantee the customers will stick with you, but looking back our acquisitions have nearly always worked out well. It is by far the easiest way to double your turnover overnight.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

The variety.

What do you least enjoy?

Having to let people go, but I think it can be essential for the overall good of the business. Also losing any customer regardless of size, but this is a very competitive trade.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

In the past 27 years, I’ve owned five greengrocers and a baby goods shop, started a wild bird food company from scratch, opened two new wholesale food depots, and also bought over three existing food businesses. During that time, I’ve created hundreds of local jobs and supported numerous local farmers and growers. I enjoy the buzz of making deals and growing the company and will probably carry on in the same vein. However, I am consciously trying to step back from the day-to-day running of the company to move to more of a chairman’s role; much easier said than done! Business Gateway Highland is helping me put plans in place to help with the transition. The team there have been excellent, offering a range of services that have been invaluable to the business. I’m working with them on management training and restructuring projects to further develop my staff.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

The fall in the pound after the Brexit result immediately added 20 per cent to the cost of importing products we cannot source locally or in the UK. I fear for the availability of labour to many of our growers as well as potentially further import duties etc.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

You have to take risks to grow. I have borrowed a lot of money from different sources but always repaid it, often well before the deadline.