Buyer’s Diary

monday

We haven’t detected much supplier interest in the Beijing Olympics – not even a ‘rubbery’ deal on a Chinese lager or oriental cuisine.

At least Pringles stayed awake to the opportunity with its Sweet Sour and Peking Duck Rice Infusions. I’m also surprised my local Chinese takeaway isn’t a little more active. I’ve got my chop sticks at the ready.

Having recently walked the main streets of two northern cities in mid to late evening, I am not convinced that the blame for binge drinking ‘lies heavily with off licences and c-stores’ as highlighted in the recent lead story in The Grocer. In both cities, the streets are littered with bars and clubs, most displaying advertising boards promoting happy hours and cheap drinks. Nowhere did I see a ‘Drinkaware’ sign or an invitation to drink responsibly. Retailers speaking at this year’s excellent Drinksummit were angry about being accused of fuelling the binge drinking culture, so it is important we continue to promote responsible retailing of alcohol through the independent trade and help protect our retail customers from these grossly unfair accusations.

My local Waitrose has a sign up in its entrance telling customers there is no truth in the rumour it is closing down. Who would try to spread such rumours? I hear that Tesco has been eying up a recently closed DIY store in the vicinity – but then that’s just a rumour.

tuesday

The confectionery buyer thinks there is mileage in chocolate bars ‘with attitude’ and suggests the current interest in dark chocolate could be exploited with the launch of ‘Bitter Twisted’ – Cadbury NPD people please note.

Cornish pasty producers using traditional recipes are right to argue for protection for their ‘unique’ product but where might this leave the Yorkshire pudding, the Dundee fruit cake and the Bakewell tart?

Still, what’s in a name? Heinz has dropped ‘Baked’ from the can, so I’m now eating beanz on toast, apparently. Should we be bothered? And what about its costly ‘contemporary’ revamp of Tommy K, claimed to be the brand’s first significant new design in 40 years? Will it taste any better?

One of the nation’s favourite meals is fish and chips so I am wondering why specialist frozen food producers have yet to come up with a decent piece of cod in batter to match the taste or the great value my local fish and chip shop delivers. Can it be so difficult?

A weekend visit with a group of friends to a pub for a meal at a popular tourist destination delivered a real surprise when I asked about wine. Shown five different bottles of white wine, I asked for three bottles of the most acceptable one. The barman apologised, saying these five bottles were all the white wine he had to offer, but that he was expecting a delivery the next day. Red wine? Yes, of course, a choice of just three bottles. Sparkling wine – none.

wednesday

In the life of this government it may never be affordable to provide free school dinners as recently suggested, although the idea must have got catering wholesalers quite excited.

Last year we put a lot of effort into our August ‘Back to School’ activity by including healthy lunch box options and gave encouragement to retailers to promote healthy eating ideas to mothers. It didn’t work

Yazoo milkshakes deserves a pat on the back for its intensive trade press and outdoor advertising campaign, including a massive consumer tasting programme. Is there any way the independent sector can muscle in on this activity?

Several publicans tell me that business is heavy going. Beer sales are well down on last year and demand for food has reduced drastically. Rural pubs appear hardest hit with fewer customers calling in. The smoking ban combined with increased fuel costs add up to a miserable time for establishments without a strong food offering. Talk about extending opening hours. Some pubs in my location now close on a Sunday evening and don’t reopen until Monday afternoon.

thursday

The Walkers ‘Do us a flavour’ campaign is being backed by pound;10m, apparently its biggest ever single marketing spend.

This reminds us all that you have to continually invest to maintain brand leadership.

Inventing an all-new flavour and sharing the profits should attract a lot of interest from consumers.

Our ‘very refined’ buying office has come up with ‘Asparagus Hollandaise Sauce’ and ‘Smoked Salmon Scrambled Eggs’. My idea of Chardonnay Chips was considered flippant.

I am all for bigger packets of crisps so the launch of Walkers Baked 37.5gm size is a useful addition to the range.

However, the company must understand space limitations in retail outlets and be prepared to delete lines in order to make way for new ones.

Can the new Innocent Orange juice succeed when it is sold at a 20p price premium over Tropicana?

We haven’t been offered the product yet but with no marketing support and most consumers looking to save money on their weekly shop during the current downturn, it may have a bumpy ride in spite of current growth in the category.

friday

Tilda has gone to great expense to explain the current market and pricing situation for rice.

One wonders if communications with retailers via a widely distributed DVD and/or easy website access might also prove beneficial in other areas of trading, like merchandising, category management and sales promotion.

Kellogg’s current campaign is all the better for hiring Dame Kelly Holmes as its ambassador, an amazing role model for young people and someone certainly worth ‘waking up to’. Olympic legend Daley Thompson’s endorsement of the Nestl eacute; ‘Go Free’ year-long confectionery deal promoting sporting activities should also produce good results.

The 59p price-marked Fanta Still juice drink offer is flying out of the depot and we have already placed a repeat order. This is a must for the chiller unit, especially since the sun has come out, and ice cream is performing well, too, with Wall’s Magnum lines selling very well.

Do we need it? Weetabix bite-size may feel it has to challenge Oatabix but really, if you can’t down a whole Weetabix, or even one broken in half (yes, it is allowed in the privacy of your own home, I gather), then I don’t know what the world is coming to.

The justification for the launch is that health-conscious mums ‘are frustrated by the lack of suitable choice’. Obviously.

Another worthy addition to my proposed publication of nonsensical marketing speak employed in the British Food Drink industry. Weetos, on the other hand, should progress with the addition of chocolate flavoured Meteors, fortified with essential vitamins. Yummy.

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