Food
2015: No.35 £105m
2014: No.30 £102m

Chinese food supplier Woon Wing Yip drew more than 2,000 visitors to an exhibition chronicling the lives of people in Birmingham’s Chinese community. The company staged the British Chinese Heritage Project – “Chinese Lives in Birmingham” – at its Nechells supermarket. The exhibition was the result of a 15-month research study, and is now housed at the Library of Birmingham .

Back at his Chinese food business, profits dipped slightly, affected by a challenging business environment, exchange rate fluctuations and commodity price rises. As families tightened their belts, turnover at the Chinese food wholesaler dipped to £96.9 million in 2013 from £99.1 million the previous year.

Pre-tax profits also dropped from £4.9 million to £4.6 million, reflecting the fact that disposable incomes are not growing. Net assets were £38.7 million.

Nonetheless Wing Yip OBE continues to invest. He has spent around £5 million expanding his Nechells-based Chinese and oriental superstore and headquarters. The business now operates from more than 16 acres at its four sites and employs more than 350 people.

The Nechells site also includes a 30,000 sq ft warehouse, as well as the existing business centre, two restaurants and the Bank of East Asia.

Wing Yip now supplies more than 2,000 Chinese restaurants throughout the UK. His four major outlets in Birmingham, Manchester, Cricklewood and Croydon stock more than 4,500 oriental items.

The business, run by Wing Yip’s nephew Henry Yap, is expanding elsewhere, too, including a Chinese superstore in Nottingham.

The company has expanded its traditional Chinese food offering into a pan-Asian concept, covering the cuisine of Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Wing Yip is passionate about education – he sees it as the secret of his own success – and has handed out hundreds of bursaries over the last 15 years to youngsters of Chinese descent to help them complete their education in the UK. He also supports young chefs with the Oriental Cookery Young Chef of the Year award for 18 to 25 year-olds. Two of the top three positions in the 2014 competition came from Birmingham. The winner was Robert Hall – a chef at the House of Commons.

It was Wing Yip’s ability to speak English when he came to the UK from Hong Kong 50 years ago that meant he could move up the ladder in business.

He is proud of the fact that his four children – Albert, Brian, Cindy and David – were all able to have a good education, thanks to their father’s success. All his children work in the business with the exception of Cindy who works for a television company in Hong Kong.

 

Wing Yip, who is 75, arrived in the UK by boat from Hong Kong in 1959. After working as a waiter he opened a restaurant in a former tea shop in Clacton-on-Sea and went on to open three more restaurants and two takeaways in East Anglia.

His first Chinese grocer’s shop opened in Digbeth in 1970, employing just ten people.

As well as selling Wing Yip branded products in his own supermarkets, they are also sold through national chains and there is a thriving online business.

The Wing Yip business has branched out into property development, management and investment through W Wing Yip and Brothers Property and Investment, with around 100 commercial and residential tenants around the country. That business shows assets of £25.1 million. Their trading and property businesses are worth more than £90 million.

He also established the Wing Yip Charitable Trust in 1985, topped-up by annual donations from the Wing Yip business, which supports the Prince’s Trust and also gives money to educational, poverty relief and sickness charities.