Buyer’s Diary

== monday ==

GSK’s launch of Ribena 100% pure juices looks an exciting prospect for independents.

The category grew 10% last year, and a new player prepared to invest pound;5m behind its brand will be great for business.

According to friends, The Bishop of Lewes was amused. Raising his empty Easter egg carton, a beautifully designed handbag shaped box complete with a ribbon carry handle, he told the congregation that Nestl eacute; had found a new way to get to Heaven – through the packaging of its exquisite Heaven Easter egg. “Not quite what the Lord had in mind,” he quipped. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) may spoil such stories in the future if it succeeds in persuading its confectionery working group to substantially reduce packaging material for seasonal products such as Easter Eggs. According to WRAP, around 3,000 tonnes of packaging materials was generated from Easter eggs in 2006.

Just five days before Easter my local Sainsbury had more pallets of Easter eggs on display than our cash and carry warehouse had at any time this year. It gave me a touch of comfort during a recent visit to see massive displays of eggs advertised at 50% off. I am relieved to say we cleared all our stock out just in time but the market was slow this year.

== tuesday ==

Interesting times ahead in the soft drinks market as Coca-Cola bosses reveal that worldwide still beverages grew by 14% against a mere 4% rise in carbonated drinks.

While the company continues to look beyond carbonates for growth with a joint venture to launch two milk-based espresso coffee bottled drinks and a canned ready to drink black coffee into selected European markets, it needs to keep a close watch on energy drink producer Red Bull. Its proposed entry into the British cola market with ‘Simply Cola’, an ‘all natural ingredients’ product appears a promising extension to this amazing brand.

I have just departed my local Lidl with a battery driven racing car and a set of batteries, too, all for under pound;8. The family is questioning my sanity again. I tried to explain that I couldn’t believe the amazing value – and just had to buy it, just like the mouth organ at Christmas. I only went in for some delicious 42p chocolate desserts and some cashew nuts. Yes, alright, and some amazingly priced KitKat Chunky and Lion Bar multi-packs too.

As a leading bottled water company, it looks like Nestle’s pound;3m marketing investment behind its UK bottled brands is a positive response to concerns expressed over the past year from environmental groups and politicians. In comparison, a premium Norwegian glacial mineral water gets a pound;2.5m TV and press advertising boost for its UK launch this month.

== wednesday ==

Some very fine words were exchanged between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the French President Nicholas Sarkozy during his recent visit to London.

If we could spread these feelings of mutual admiration into our wholesaling world then maybe some distinct trading opportunities would arise.

Consumers might warm a little towards French wines and cheeses. Our government might even see value in protecting small retail businesses from the might of multiple operators as the French do.

Praise Mars for investing pound;7m in its ‘Get Britain Playing’ campaign, even if our home teams failed to make it to the Euro 2008 party. One hundred thousand footballs is a lot of balls. Mars really must believe the nation is ready to go football crazy this year. They should have called the campaign ‘Get England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland winning’. When Coca-Cola ran its ‘free football’ promotion a couple of years ago I never got to see any of them. Where did they all go?

National Independents’ Week is coming up fast and we are again encouraging our customers to play their part in what has become the biggest generic promotional activity ever mounted in our sector. With more than pound;3 of money-off vouchers in the press and the possibility of a free cuppa and a biscuit – courtesy of Tetley UK and McVitie’s, popping in to your local participating independent has never been more rewarding.

== thursday ==

Walkers’ Brit Trips promotion is an admirable way to link British spuds to enjoyable days out at popular British attractions – from half price entry at Madame Tussaud’s and Legoland to free day passes at National Trust properties and two for the price of one pub lunches.

With only 10,000 Brit Trips on offer for the whole of the country and participants having to meet the costs of getting themselves to the venues, and then have to pay full price for additional tickets, it’s hardly a trip ‘to make your dreams come true’ as Cliff used to sing. The Maltesers and Friends ‘two free cinema tickets’ offer is, on the other hand, well worth pursuing.

The new Ginsters four-minute microwaveable Real Meals range builds nicely onto its excellent selection of sandwiches, hot pies, pastas and Cornish pasties and will enhance independents’ chilled cabinet ready meal offering.

== friday ==

You’d have thought that every possible avenue would have been explored in the bleach market – but no.

Domestos Grotbuster has arrived at a startling pound;1.99 for half a litre. Strange name. Grot applies to rubbish or junk, grotty is shabby, unpleasant and unattractive. But then the name Cillit Bang always puzzles me too.

Who says competition isn’t good for you. Wrigley’s should be thrilled by Trident’s chewing gum challenge – more promotional activity, more NPD, more sales. We aren’t complaining.

Recent HM Excise Customs seizures remind us that the dirty business of tobacco smuggling and sale of counterfeit cigarettes continues on a massive scale – to the cost of not only the exchequer, but independent retailers, too. Forcing legitimate tobacco retailers to conceal cigarettes below the counter is a joke when outside on street corners the smugglers are openly selling cartons out of carrier bags. It is now 16 years since large-scale smuggling began, surely time enough for suppliers and the authorities to have come up with a solution to the problem.

In spite of a 20 pence budget increase, the strengthening Euro against the pound and crop failures in Australia, the sub pound;4 wine market hasn’t suddenly disappeared as suggested by several observers. The large number of excellent wine deals over Easter suggests the market will remain very competitive for some time to come. One discounter is selling drinkable 2007 vintage Chilean varietals for pound;2.29 a bottle.

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