Adding a little spice to the menu

With consumers displaying a seemingly inexhaustible appetite for new tastes, the ethnic food sector has shown strong growth over recent years, with wholesalers helping to introduce and drive sales of many new types. In recent years the supermarkets have caught on to some of the more popular ones, such as Indian Chinese, Mexican and Thai, but there are other types where independent retailers and restaurants are still leading the way.

Afro-Caribbean food and drink is one such sector with the wholesaler Wanis estimating that 90% of sales in the UK are through the independent channel. Wanis claims to be the UK’s number one wholesaler in the Afro-Caribbean sector by turnover and range, through its cash and carry in east London, and is also a major distributor to other wholesalers and retailers.

Commenting on its wholesale operation, Wanis marketing manager Adejare Adesanya says: “The continued explosion of sauces has benefited our range and we now stock more than 20 different brands. The range of Tropical Sun 150ml hot sauces has shown tremendous growth in its category since introduction three years ago with its Piri Piri sauce even outselling Nandos sauces.

“In addition to sauces, spices also offer an easy access point to liven up everyday dishes and consumers find this incredibly easy to add to meals to give them depth and character.

“We have a number of different spices and herbs brands since each represents a particular target segment. Speciality drinks continue to be resilient to the recession and although a weakening sterling has not helped cost increases, growth has still been evident.

“Current trends show a higher sales contribution from retail customers fuelled by the increased demand from consumers who are simply interested in trying out new things at home, but we are beginning to notice an increase in catering demands for some of the products which evidences mainstream appeal, places such as cafes and restaurants, as well as staff canteens.”

Retail

In its role as a distributor, Wanis sales director John Payne says: “Afro-Caribbean foods represent the next major cuisine every independent retailer (and hence wholesaler) should be stocking. Reggae Reggae sauce has opened up the Caribbean market and Levi Roots is a great ambassador for Caribbean foods and on the back of this Wanis has seen strong growth of its authentic sauces and spices with year-on-year increases in excess of 30%.”

Enco Products has a 46% market share of the UK’s Caribbean food and drink market, according to IRI, more than twice that of its nearest competitor. “We take our role as category leader very seriously and are working with retailers to accelerate profitable category growth,” says Andy Nicholls, Enco Products category manager.

“One of the category’s biggest strengths is that distribution is spread across the retail chain and across a number of product sectors. These include nutritional drinks, sauces, malt and carbonate drinks, canned meat and fish. This highlights the broad appeal of the category and why it is attracting so many new consumers.”

Enco Products is driving consumer awareness and demand with national advertising, promotions, sponsorships and sampling. Nicholls says Enco Products’ strategy is to invest heavily in its category leading brands such as Encona sauces and Nurishment, its nutritionally-enriched milk drink, to ensure that the Caribbean market continues to emerge from its core ethnic base into the mainstream market.

Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae sauce has risen to be the second highest seller in the hot and BBQ sauces category, according to Nielsen, and is seeking to build on its popularity with a range of three cooking sauces.

AB World Foods new business development controller Howard Morrish says: “We are thrilled to be launching Levi Roots’ cooking sauces. Our new range will offer a cost-effective, easy and tasty solution to providing dishes for the entire family that are quick to prepare. Caribbean cooking is full of flavour and is intrinsically linked to family eating occasions, so we are confident the new sauces will be a huge success.”

Mexican food is another strong segment, generating annual retail sales of more than pound;119m and is growing by 8.2%, according to IRI. Old El Paso accounts for 52.7% of category sales and is growing at 14.2%.

Andy Foweather, sales director, General Mills UK, says: “Old El Paso has delivered the lion’s share of Mexican food sales; this is not just a flash in the pan but has consistently been the case for the last decade.” He adds: “With space at a premium independent retailers really need to take a look at what’s on the Mexican fixture and cut out the slower selling lines to release space for the brands in greatest demand. It is therefore key that wholesalers stock a core range of products that their customers will be looking to purchase.”

The Old El Paso core range for convenience includes: Old El Paso Original Fajita Dinner Kit; Old El Paso Original Fajita Spice Mix; Old El Paso Soft Flour Tortillas; Old El Paso Original Salsa; and Old El Paso Oven Baked Crispy Chicken Fajitas.

In the Indian segment, Foods Pacific is looking for UK and European distribution for its range of ready-to-eat meals and sauces, released under the Taste of India brand name, which are already available in New Zealand and Australia.

The Dhal Range in microwaveable 400g punnets is available now, and later this year Taste of India will be launching its complete range of vegetarian, classic simmer sauces and traditional Indian ready meals.

To target restaurants and other food outlets there will be special institutional packs, covering the ranges.

New products are also being introduced in the Oriental segment. Blue Dragon is revamping the packaging of its stir-fry portfolio and adding two new variants to the standard stir-fry sachet range – Blue Dragon Sweet Soy with Garlic Ginger and Blue Dragon Thai Basil Lemongrass – and two further additions to its premium stir-fry sachet range – Blue Dragon Sweet Sour with Coriander and Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli Kaffir Lime. And Sharwoods has introduced Microwave Noodles in five different flavours, hoping that noodles will mimic the rice market where microwave rice now accounts for 41% of the market.

Catering and foodservice

Jennifer Harker, brand manager for Heinz Foodservice, says: “UK consumers are now far more open to what the world has to offer and embrace Eastern food, with two thirds of consumers wanting to see more Oriental dishes in particular on menus. To reflect this, we need to ensure wholesalers are armed with the right information and products to hand caterers authenticity with a welcome helping of convenience.”

Harker says Amoy’s range of cooking sauces in 2.25kg bottles has been designed specifically for caterers’ needs. “The beauty of the sauces is their simplicity and convenience, a key attraction for caterers with no trained chefs. Wholesalers need to be aware that UK caterers might not feel that confident about creating global cuisine and want to be presented with products that make life simple, go further and add an authentic taste of the east to dishes.”

Carly Windsor, marketing manager of The Authentic Food Company (TAFC), comments: “Indian cuisine has shown significant growth in the past year particularly in the pub sector. We have been working closely with Pub Track and found that the Global Main Meals sector, which includes Oriental and Indian Cuisines, has increased by 2.5% in the last year making it worth pound;293m. The Oriental and Indian share of this Main Meals market accounts for pound;57m, proving these lines are well on the increase in the pub market.”

This has prompted TAFC and 3663, which has been distributing its products for over five years, to encourage customers to exploit this opportunity by putting a Curry Club on their menu. Both companies provide menus that include a number of popular Indian starters, mains and accompaniments.

Isabelle Davis, 3663’s marketing manager, says she is seeing a move towards back to basics Indian cuisine with outlets striving to make their offering more authentic by using traditional Indian flavours with provenance. “TAFC’s range of premium ready meals offers more individual flavours from specific regions of India – Chicken Makhani from the Punjab in northern India and Kashmiri Lamb Kofta Curry originating from Lucknow again in the north of India.”

She adds: “The Curry Club works so well in all outlets as it has the ability to adapt to consumer trends with a mixture of popular lines appearing on the menu alongside the more premium lines, such as the award-winning Sweet Potato, Chick Pea and Spinach Curry which now makes an appearance on most pub menus.”

Simon Cliff, general sales manager – foodservice of Daloon Foods (UK), a manufacturer of frozen ethnic snack foods, says retail market statistics give an insight into the increasing popularity of frozen ethnic foods in the UK and tend to mirror trends in the foodservice market.

The latest TNS market report shows that over the last two years the frozen ethnic snacks market has grown by 42.7% in value, compared with growth of 8.7% for total frozen prepared foods.

He also points out that growth in Mini Ethnic Snacks, which is the strongest performing product group in the Frozen Ethnic Snacks market, is reflected by them occupying all positions in the top 10 selling lines. This market sector has been driven by ‘Party Food’ ranges and many Frozen Ethnic Snacks such as mini spring rolls, mini samosas and onion bhajis have become year round favourites.

Daloon has an extensive range of frozen ethnic snacks, including Oriental and Indian snacks and traditional Dim Sum. New additions to the range this year include two spicy Devil Bites, one with a Spicy Chilli Beef filling and one with a Vegetable Salsa filling.

Riverside Food Services claims its Take ‘n’ Bake range is the first range of bakery products targeted to the fast growing Muslim Halal sector.

The range has been developed primarily for bake-off outlets with hot counters. Being frozen the products are easy to store and can be cooked from frozen ensuring no wastage and the pastry has been specially developed to retain its crispness for longer once it has been cooked off and is being kept warm.

Riverside Take ‘n’ Bake products range from sweet to savoury pastries and from desserts to ready to use pastry.

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=== chinese New Year ===

Halewood International is investing in a major marketing push for Tsingtao Chinese beer to coincide with Chinese New Celebrations on January 26.

Halewood International will sponsor New Year celebrations across Chinatowns in London, Newcastle, Birmingham and Liverpool, and will underpin this with point of sale across 4,000 Chinese restaurants and trade promotional activity offering a free PoS and glass kit to restaurants and retailers who buy five cases of Tsingtao.

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