buyer’s diary

Monday

The glorious weather over the Easter holidays and the lead up to the royal wedding has been very good for business.

Sales are up across the board and most of our retailer customers appear very confident going into May. Catering sales have benefited and we’ve seen a few faces in the depot for the first time in a while a welcome sight and a reminder of just how valuable the cash and carry is to retailers and caterers alike.

The British Beer amp; Pub Association reports a further loss of beer sales, down nearly 4% in the first quarter of this year, slowing down on last year’s 8% decline, but still worrying for us since beer represents a big chunk of our business and overrider income. While the BBPA believes the recent spell of bank holidays and good weather may aid on-trade recovery, my local publican says it didn’t happen for him.

At last the P amp;G Mothers campaign starts to make sense following TV ads that show its leading brands. Pringles, of course, was missing as P amp;G has now disposed of its only food product. At pound;1 a tube, the Christmas pack is still on offer locally while other retailers are asking pound;2.03 for the same product. Whoever has control of this brand in the future must realise this silly pricing policy is not a credible approach to marketing the brand.

Tuesday

Tesco once again enjoyed a free plug courtesy of the BBC.

Its new chief executive was given the opportunity to tell us how good Tesco is for Britain’s shoppers following its record profits announcement. A beaming checkout girl at my local Tesco said she and her fellow staff would be in for a big bonus in free shares. I was happy too, buying litre bottles of Pimm’s for the bank holiday weekend for pound;13, cheaper than the current cash and carry cost price for a 70cl bottle. What are Diageo up to? My publican friend says he buys all his spirits from the multiples when they come on special offer. Can you blame him?

HM Revenue amp; Customs has updated its strategy to deal with tobacco smugglers who, for the past 20 years, have progressively stolen this business from us. Increased intelligence, more crime liaison officers and tougher penalties are welcome but I’m not convinced it will make much difference.

Wouldn’t it be good if we could get more wholesalers onto The Grocer’s Power List this year. It’s about people who not only have influence but are also helping to shape our industry.

Wednesday

Research from Harris Interactive suggests consumers are finding food labels difficult to understand.

Can we please go back a step? I am, and lots of people I know are, finding them difficult to read because of the small print, badly chosen fonts, poor colour matching and multi-language details. Getting out a magnifying glass to check the cooking times on a Lidl frozen pizza and oven ready chips are the extremes I am now going to.

The average selling price of a bottle of wine has soared, not just because of VAT and duty increases but through a fall-off in promotional activity. In our sector, retailers and their customers must be truly bored with the usual multi-buy offers on indifferent wines and it’s time we got better wines into independent outlets. What a delight it was to pop into a Londis store and find Cloudy Bay on the shelf. I have encouraged my local Spar to stock Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc retailing for nearly pound;10 a bottle and guess what it’s selling.

I hate the new Magners ad featuring a man with a beard made of bees. Clever, maybe, but once stung by a bee, twice shy.

Thursday

It seems such an obvious development so why have we waited until now for a Sparkling Ribena.

GlaxoSmithKline is spending pound;1.4m on an outdoor campaign that should get the brand off to a good start.

Limited editions are fine for developing brands and trialling new flavours and variants but not for the merchandising team who must update retail store planograms for short-term activities. Not such a problem with McVitie’s Dark Chocolate Caramel Digestive’s. The taste combination looks irresistible.

There was a time when brands such as Wagon Wheels used to get smaller and the chocolate thinner to maintain a competitive price. Now UB is actually putting more chocolate onto its Jacob’s Club brand, a real favourite of mine. With sales up by 48% year on year, this is a real bonus that can only help grow sales and market share in the future.

Friday

It would appear the country is going mad for peanut butter.

With a third of the nation tucking into what has become our fastest growing spread, sales last year hit pound;40m, a 43% growth in two years. A senior food analyst sums it up for our benefit. ‘The recession encouraged consumer purchase, viewing peanut butter as an indulgent low-cost treat, and manufacturers have responded to consumer concern over health issues and the emergence of more natural varieties with less additives, thus helping to reposition peanut butter as a healthier option’. Very succinct.

Heineken’s research into cider packaging says consumers are confused by the number of brand varieties. There is no doubt their new label is striking. Developing own brand a few years ago we were told not to put apples on a cider product. Not a fruit in sight on their new look original, crisp and pear bottles.

New balls please. The summer New Balls for Britain campaign from Highland Spring is its biggest ever promotional spend, which will have great appeal to sports clubs and individuals, enhanced with an on-line opportunity to win ‘a fantastic sporting break’.

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