NFT is to venture south with the opening of a major warehouse as it eyes a larger slice of the £34bn of food imports to the UK.

It hopes the move will help increase its annual turnover from £170m to £250m within four years.

Speaking to MT after private equity firm EmergeVest replaced backer Phoenix Partners in a £60m deal, NFT CEO David Frankish said the first chapter of a longer story was complete, with NFT now pursuing several opportunities.

“One of our major investments during the Phoenix period was Daventry – a 220,000ft2 shed,” said Frankish. “We took on the site in January 2009 and it was full by September 2012.

“We will be looking to open another warehouse similar to Daventry in the South East. £34bn-worth of food is imported every year into the UK and a fair chunk of that is chilled from the continent, and the point of entry to the UK is the South East. Customers need a consolidation point, with stockholding capacity, where they can pick orders for retailers,” Frankish said.

While one of NFT’s seven national locations is in St Albans, the depot is unique within the primary distributor’s shared user network, as it carriers out secondary distribution for 40 Sainsbury’s stores in north London. It means the new South East site, for which NFT has identified several potential locations, will be its most southerly in its main primary distribution business.

The new facility is pencilled in to open by autumn 2015.

Frankish said there were also plenty of consolidation opportunities in the chilled market, “but not all would be right for NFT”.

However, the company said it is well placed to continue its organic expansion, with the departure of Stobart Group from the chilled distribution market last year “a boost to most players in the market but certainly to NFT”.

Frankish said that while there were good regional operators in the market and companies with national reach, NFT was one of the few that could claim to have a national shared-user primary-distribution network in the chilled sector.

Frankish also sees scope to do more work via NFX, its load and vehicle matching service, on the continent and with manufacturers in eastern Europe, where the amount of pre-prepared foods imported into the UK is increasing.