South East distributor moves into top gear following digital transformation

02 February 2024

A Berkshire, UK-based supply chain specialist is on track to increase profits by more than £2M after investing in its digital strategy, thanks to knowledge acquired through the Help to Grow: Management Course.

ACI Group is a leading distributor of ingredients, products and raw materials to the food, pharmaceutical, chemical and road building industries. The family business, which was founded in 1988, counts global brands such as Lakeland Bake, New Balance Team Sports UK, Eurovia, and Reckitt amongst its customers, and today employs 22 people across its four industry divisions.

Group CEO Karsten Smet (pictured) joined ACI Group in 2020 following a 25-year career in the technology industry. He is helping to modernise the business by taking advantage of the opportunities presented by digital transformation.

To accelerate this, Karsten enrolled on a 12-week Help to Grow: Management Course, which is designed to help business leaders and senior managers increase resilience, innovation, and growth. The course was delivered by Brunel Business School – a recipient of the Small Business Charter accreditation that recognises institutions that support small businesses – and gave him the knowledge he needed to optimise the business’ digital channels to increase customer engagement and drive growth.

Since completing the course in 2022, Karsten has invested in building a new website and social media strategy to enhance brand visibility and grow a steady pipeline of new business through increased organic traffic. As a direct result of the changes implemented, ACI Group has reported an 800% increase in engagement throughout its digital platforms and is on track to boost its turnover from £15M to more than £20M in 2024.

Following this success, the next step is to implement a new online platform that will help to improve sustainability across the supply chain. It will allow customers to track their carbon outputs and reward them for choosing a more sustainable method of distribution through preferential pricing.


Focus on Sustainability: The power of collaboration – Uniting for sustainable success

The Help to Grow: Management Course also helped Karsten to prepare ACI Group for the acquisition of Yorkshire-based, software business Oomph Works in December 2022. This move will enable ACI Group to develop an AI-powered service designed specifically to help customers tackle the poor data visibility that can arise when running multiple tech platforms such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). By providing customers with access to real-time, high-quality data and software, ACI Group believes it will minimise the impact of disruptions, reducing vulnerabilities in the supply chain and increasing resilience. The acquisition of Oomph Works, release of its CRM platform and supply chain management software has seen the valuation of ACI Group significantly increase in recent months.

Karsten Smet, Group CEO at ACI Group, said: “Supply chains have been under a huge amount of strain over the last two years due to rising input costs and the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe and  the Middle East. We’re now in the golden quarter and many businesses are experiencing increased demand for their goods and services, which is putting even more strain on the system. At ACI Group, we’re actively helping our customers to navigate the movement of goods in the most cost-effective and sustainable way possible through better use of technology.

“Since completing the Help to Grow: Management Course, we’ve rediscovered our identity and put plans in place to tackle tomorrow’s challenges today. The course allowed me to identify where there were opportunities to make changes and how we could implement these processes to become more resilient and, in turn, enable our customers to build resilience. Our digital capabilities and sustainability focus are now key differentiators for ACI Group and are providing an opportunity for us to grow and enhance our market proposition.”

Michael Hayman, MBE, Chair, Small Business Charter, added: “In just 12 months Karsten has begun to capitalise on the huge potential of digital transformation for ACI Group. The strategy is clearly paying off with new business opportunities and added value services for existing customers.

“The Help to Grow: Management Course has been designed to support leaders like Karsten to develop innovative and resilient businesses, as well as the confidence to lead change. Throughout the 12-week course, participants benefit from practical, case study-based learning delivered by the experts in our business school community, and the support of 1-2-1 mentors and a peer network.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Karsten and his team continue to differentiate their customer experience through investment in technology.”

Business leaders can find out more about Help to Grow: Management and sign up for the course in their area by visiting:

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