Aged 26, Joseph Dunn, originally of Galway, established his soft drinks business on Arcadia Street in the East End of Glasgow all the way back in 1875. At this time, various similar businesses came in to being, each of which would service their local market with "aerated waters" by horse and cart! The industrial revolution of the time helped grow their popularity as the population
Thirty years later, Joseph would establish a new factory at Bankier Street, complete with offices and accommodation. The company would innovate even in its infancy, adding a first motor lorry in 1923, before commencing the bottling of beers and stout in 1929 via the purchase of premises on London Road.
Having succeeded his father in the aftermath of WWI, Chairman William Dunn was in 1939 appointed Vice-Chairman of the War Time Association of the Great British Soft Drinks Industry. During WWII, the soft-drinks industry was not rationed, rather rationalised. Competition was effectively eliminated and many businesses compulsorily closed. Many never re-opened but those that remained over the War were under strict control from the authorities. Profits required efficient use of ingredients – some had to be shared with those that had been forced to close.
Thankfully, Dunns were amongst those who stuck out the difficult period and by 1951 would bring a new type of concentrated fruit drink made from fresh whole fruits to the market which would invigorate the squash market.
Acquisitions of various drinks firms including George Stirling (Dunoon), James Dunbar Ltd and WM Leitch & Co of Edinburgh, and John Campbell of Perth & Crieff add to the Dunn Group. Later, the company would also take over Currie’s of Auchinleck, Robertsons of Springwell, McDougalls of Bonhill and Garvie’s of Milngavie.
The company celebrated its centenary year back in 1975, taking the opportunity to look back on a century of effort - a duration that had already spanned six sovereigns and two World Wars! We weren't done just yet though, not by a long way!
In the 1980s, the company moved into a third generation of the Dunn family with Christopher Dunn becoming Managing Director.
During his tenure, Christopher would take steps to merge the various strands of the business in to one Dunns group. This included soft drinks and the licensed division, Dunn & Moore, plus various other related interests including cash & carries, pubs and even an air-conditioning company. The addition of new strands including foodservice would set the company on the way to becoming Scotland's largest independent wholesaler.
In the early 1990s, Christopher would bring further success with the addition of the Strathmore water brand, which was successfully built up, later sold and remains popular in the market.
Christopher remained Chairman of the Board until sadly passing away in June 2018.
Like many long-running family businesses, Dunns has seen a few twists and turns along the way!
It was at the turn of the millennium, as the business began to evolve and some shareholders looked to exit the business, that Jim Rowan and Julie Dunn, started to explore a management buyout.
After evaluation, they had decided to refocus and restructure the business to focus on distribution. Since that period Jim (Managing Director) and Julie (Operations Director - and a 4th generation of the Dunn family), have successfully re-aligned the company. However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing...
Having sold it's licensed division and moved for the first time in 1995 to a new site in Cambuslang, the company was almost forced under when a fire destroyed the depot.
A planned sale of the Robertson's of Springwell site in Blantyre was halted to provide emergency premises but it ended up becoming a new home.
One year later, the company re-entered the licensed on-trade supply market.
In 2011, Dunns joined the exclusive Society of Vintners for the first time. The Society of Vintners Ltd is a consortium that has 26 members covering the whole of the UK. Like Dunns, most of the other members are family-owned independent businesses. The emphasis on exclusivity or near-exclusivity provides a major point of difference against the offering of many national operators.
In 2013, Dunns joined the Country Range foodservice group, giving access to the widely recognised and trusted brand for caterers. As members of the group for Scotland, the move allows the company to offer highly competitive pricing structures along with the personal service of a regional wholesaler. This was also a year of unity within the company, as all divisions, including Duncan's Food Service, were unified under the Dunns Food and Drinks name.
The acquisition of Dameck Drinks Co., Scotland’s biggest craft beer supplier, leads to an estimated extra 1200 beers being added to the Dunns portfolio, with brews from all around the world.
It's a particular successful year as the company is named Food Wholesaler of the Year at the DRAM Scottish Bar & Pub Awards for the THIRD year in succession, as well as Best Delivered Operation - Foodservice at the Scottish Wholesale Association Awards. Operations Director, Julie Dunn, is appointed the first ever female president of the Association.
The company also holds its first ever Craft Marketpace event and gains new Currie's Red Kola retail listings with Scotmid & RS McColls.
Dunns acquire the premium spirits wholesaler, Hotsauce Drinks, a move which extends the companys portfolio still further to offer an unparalleled range of premium spirits.
In June 2018, it was a DOUBLE award win for Dunns as the company picked up the People's Choice award wins, both in the Scottish and Overall UK categories, at the Family Business of the Year Awards in Mayfair, London.
August 2018 saw another a successful night at the DRAM Scottish Bar & Pub Awards as Dunns were named Food Wholesaler of the Year for the FOURTH year in a row.
The night was also special for Tom Cullen, who was inducted in to the Hall of Fame for his work in the industry.