Burning passion

February 2017

Wood Fuel Co-operative in Dumfries is working with Business Gateway as it undergoes a further expansion and develops its wholesale market

Rowland Parke launched Wood Fuel Co-operative in 2011 with a handful of like-minded individuals who wanted to buy wood fuel at the best possible price. Five years later it has over 500 members and a turnover in excess of £500,000; it stocks the biggest range of briquettes in the UK, as well as wood pellets for biomass boilers, kiln-dried logs, natural firelighters and kindling substitutes; supplies to customers all over the UK, from Caithness to Cornwall, and, having outgrown its previous premises, is now expanding again, at 170 Heathhall Industrial Estate where it moved to two years ago, as it develops its wholesale market.

Managing director Rowland Parke, front right, with wholesale manager Stuart Gray, finance director Sue Taylor and director Ashley Parke

What’s most impressive about the five-strong team (who are outnumbered by the office dogs) at Wood Fuel Co-operative is the passion they have for their products.

“We’re really keen to only provide products that we would want to use ourselves. Most of our staff have wood stoves and open fires at home, so any new products get thoroughly tested before we’re happy to add them to our stock. We’ve become pretty critical and hard to please: we really are wood fuel geeks,” says director Ashley Parke, Rowland’s daughter, who will be taking over from him as MD.

Wood Fuel Co-operative prides itself on offering expert advice and a personal service to its customers, and retail manager Malcolm Mackintosh is more than happy to talk through the various products, which include everything from RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive)-certified biomass pellets to starter cobs; oak, aspen, birch and bark briquettes, peat nuggets and ultra-bright burn logs, all sourced from all over the UK and mainland Europe. He explains how people can get the best out of their stoves and why the briquettes are such a good option. Not only are they easier, cleaner and more convenient to use, but kilo for kilo they cost the same as logs and generate far more heat. What’s more, they are environmentally friendly: recycled from waste from the timber industry. Customers are encouraged to “pick and mix” products to work out what’s best for them. Wood Fuel Co-operative also sells point-of-lay hens from February to October, and stocks a wide selection of poultry food and wild bird food.

People don’t have to be a member to buy from the Co-operative, but those who do (members pay a one-off, fully refundable payment of £99) can potentially save between £50-£100 a year.

“It’s an idea that resonates with people,” says Rowland, who offers free membership to NHS staff as a thank you for when he was cared for in hospital.

With the Co-operative enjoying consistent year-on- year growth, he is busy overseeing its latest expansion and the development of the new wholesale venture, and says he is grateful for Business Gateway’s “tremendous help”. 

“Advisor Allan McNaught has set us on the right track for expansion. We simply couldn’t have expanded the way we have without Business Gateway’s input and advice. They have done us proud.”