Emperor Refrigerated Transport

Name: Ian Wharton

Title: Managing Director

Company: Emperor Refrigerated Transport

Emperor Refrigerated Transport logo
Ian Wharton | Emperor Refrigerated Transport

How did you get into the temperature-controlled distribution sector and what is your role within Emperor Refrigerated Transport?

This is a semi-retirement venture after 40 years in food manufacturing and consultancy. I am the founder, owner, driver and valeter and I have even been known to make the tea. Before setting out on this adventure I was made aware by my lovely partner Liz, that I couldn’t play golf and the world was not ready to see me in cycling lycra. So, having talked about our business model for several years before this point, we took the plunge and to be honest we have never looked back. As dedicated food professionals we have endeavoured to provide the best service, delivering our clients products, in time, in full and always within their temperature-controlled parameters. We have always helped with start-ups with general manufacturing processes and take them through step-by-step delivery requirements when dealing with larger customers. Our main object is to bridge the gap for smaller businesses scaling up with their production and distribution. Our unique selling point is delivering specialist samples to new potential customers in the best possible quality to ensure that the hard work and money that has gone into the new product development is treated with the respect it deserves.

Can you firstly tell us what temperature-controlled vehicles that Emperor Refrigerated Transport operates?

We have a small fleet of four high spec vehicles including Peugeot Boxers and Citroen Relays. The quality of our vehicles and capacity was essential when researching the vehicles right for our business. The GAH refrigerated units on our vehicles are serviced and well maintained, with an outstanding and professional service provided by GAH Refrigeration and the BOSCH Autobar centre in Chester-Le-Street. Our vehicles can each transport 3 pallets, or regularly we are quite happy to hand ball up to 5 pallets on board (depending on product weight). The vehicles can be split chilled/frozen with a range from -21C to +25C. It is imperative to us as a business that our vehicles are serviced, maintained and are always run to the highest standards. We would like to mention again the engineers and technicians at Autobar who keep our vehicles in outstanding working condition. We have also developed smaller vehicles which are kitted out to run ambient, chilled and frozen to food standard specifications.

What has been the most important technical development in your temperature-controlled bodies and refrigeration systems in recent years and how has it impacted on your operations within Emperor Refrigerated Transport?

We work closely with a specialist thermal coverings manufacturer whom we have developed thermal curtains to split the vehicles and provide extra insulation especially when we had the heatwaves this year and last year. These thermal coverings were developed with NASA, so I can’t say much more about them (or I would have to make you disappear), but if it is good enough for NASA it is good enough for us! These highly advanced technical coverings give us the scope to work with multiple temperature products on board. More information on these amazing products will be made more clear over the coming months.

Are you using telematics across your fleet currently? If so, what advantages do you see this gives your clients?

We don’t currently use telematics across our vehicles however, we do have constant in-cab display which constantly records the vehicle temperatures for our clients. As a business based on the extensive experience within the food industry, it is our policy to probe products with our clients at time of loading, and of course repeat the process on point of delivery. We will in the next month or so install telematics, which will be linked by an app to all of our clients who will be able to track their products in real-time with temperature readings.

Customer needs are constantly changing, so what are you finding is now the biggest request from your customers?

It is important to us and the business that we build and develop good working relationships with our clients, old and new. They respect our food background and professionalism. All our clients know when their product has arrived, the products temperature on arrival and they receive a digital copy of proof of delivery. Due to the way we work with our clients and as their needs change, we have always been flexible enough to accommodate and adapt to them. We will always endeavour to go the extra mile for all our clients. We will take care of booking in, manage portals for them, help with pallet configuration, provide transport solutions and provide answers to any queries they may have. Our business philosophy is to work with all our clients and act as an ambassador for their business.

  • We are foodies
  • Working with foodies
  • Delivering to foodies
  • In food safe vehicles

What environmental measures does Emperor Refrigerated Transport incorporate to ensure best practice?

We spec’d our vehicles before purchasing to make sure they all meet the highway mission standards and clean emissions. All our vehicles are regularly serviced and maintained, and our refrigerated units go through an extensive maintenance program each month. The business produces a route plan on a weekly basis to ensure an efficient service, maximise fuel economy, and minimum road miles. Each vehicle is also fitted with an electric hook-up, allowing us to collect and deliver within our client’s time frames, reducing the amount of fuel emissions on overnight stops. Going forward, we will be working with GAH for future green refrigerated units and looking to invest in our first fully electric vehicle in the next coming year.

The last 24 months has thrown us all a curve ball, how has business been for Emperor Refrigerated Transport since the pandemic started?

As mentioned in the first question, this was a semi-retirement gig. I now find myself working harder than ever but loving the challenges and working with our loyal clients. I think the last 24 months has been very challenging for most businesses regardless of size. As a business we have tried to embrace all of the hurdles the last 2 years has thrown at us. It has tested our resolve. But good communication with our clients has helped maintained our client confidence and continued support. Our social media presence and website also allows us to keep our clients informed and keep them aware of any new developments and latest updates.

If you could give one piece of advice to a newcomer to our industry, what would it be?

Before establishing Emperor Refrigerated Transport, I enjoyed the collaboration with start up businesses and larger businesses as a business mentor through Newcastle and Durham universities, including their partnerships with Hong Kong and China universities. So sharing experience and knowledge has always been a big part of my philosophy, and if in any way we can help to develop new businesses and help with growth we are happy to do so. My key advice to newcomers to our industry are:

  • Buy the best spec vehicle and refrigerated unit you can afford – they are probably the most important part of your team
  • Don’t over promise and under deliver
  • Manage expectations

Lastly, would you like to share any news about your company that you feel would benefit the TCS&D readers?

It has been hard work and lots to learn along the way. However, the business continues to grow. We talk with new clients on a daily basis and the future looks “icy bright”. We have new team members who contribute to our growth, their expertise adds to the professionalism of our service. We are planning to have a local storage facility to help benefit our clients with their storage requirements. We will continue to provide the best possible service on a daily basis. I know in this modern technological world most things are done via email, portal, apps etc but just to let everybody know, with us just pick up the phone and talk through what needs to be done and we will find you a solution and get you a cost.

We are foodies, delivering to foodies in food vehicles.

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