Buyer’s Diary

MONDAY
Top marks to Kettle Chips whose products have become well established in our snacks section.

The Christmas range extension to include Wensleydale Cheese and Cranberry suggests Walkers, who recently launched two new seasonal flavours, don’t have exclusivity in creative thinking for this category. The current Wallace Gromit cinema box office success will help put Wensleydale firmly on the cheese map. I hope the provisions buyer is on to this.

The recent Unilever Partners for Growth focus on household products and toiletries is a positive contribution to independent retail development which we will add to our own in-store category guide. It is all too easy to tie up money in stock in these categories and we are guilty of confusing our customers with the wide selection we carry and, in the interest of increasing advertising revenue, the bad practice of promoting brands that duplicate best sellers.

Asda has again set the scene for an aggressively priced drinks Christmas. We are poised to release our drinks package but shared margins will prevent us from reaching some of Asda’s price points. We believe our emphasis on smaller units of purchase for beers and an up-beat campaign on wine with lots of multi-buys add up to a strong package for independents. As for spirits and liqueurs, we hope the multiples won’t ruin it like they did last year.

TUESDAY
TV advertising can make a real difference to building sales and distribution so the announcement that Heineken is moving away from TV next year surprises us.

With so many brands fighting in the premium sector we wonder what impact this might have on their fortunes.

Coors special price-marked lager beer packs for Carling bottles and Grolsch cans are very welcome. We do fear a multiple meltdown on beer pricing over the coming weeks and need to respond with some good value consumer deals on top brands. Leading brewers are trying to talk up retail pricing but few people here believe the multiples or specialists are listening.
Through the post at home, and in the national press and colour supplements, the nation is being bombarded with wine club buying opportunities.

Even with the big discounts or free goods on offer, when carriage is added these deals often do not match the value we can provide through the independent channel. We must find better ways of promoting the exceptional value of our wine proposition to a wider audience, or lose out.

WEDNESDAY
“‘Don’t panic!” Corporal Jones’s words reverberated around the depot recently as retailers reacted to rumours of a possible strike at the Heinz Wigan factory.

Yes, demand for Heinz baked beans went through the roof, leaving us out of stock. I feel somewhat frustrated as many regular customers went without. Over-reaction from the media has yet again created an unnecessary supply problem.

Branston’s entry into this market, however, must make the Heinz management and their workers think again about the risks of industrial action. At least it got beans back on the telly!

Britvic’s PepsiMax Punch for Christmas is an interesting development which we will support, although some of my colleagues think it won’t capture the public’s imagination without a substantial marketing spend. Their J2O brand has performed well in the on trade and has real potential in the off while the Robinson’s Fruit Squash link to The Chronicles of Narnia Disney film will also benefit from the TV support.

Ocado is really working hard to boost its Waitrose home delivery service. Since I signed up to check out its website I have received a range of incentives through the post and on-line in an attempt to secure my first order.

Currently valid, I have a 10% discount off a £75 purchase, a £15 voucher off a £75 purchase, and today, ‘a very handy fantastic free gift’ – oh, and a free bottle of wine! They really do mean business.

THURSDAY
Thank you, UB. Your ‘Cracking Snacking’ bulletin is a very helpful document.

It takes a responsible overview of the snacking and biscuit market, exposing a range of exciting new products like McVities White Chocolate Digestives and Branston Pickle Mini Cheddars Drums, and seasonal opportunities for both sweet and savoury biscuits.

We, like so many cash and carry wholesalers, depend on tobacco as a major footfall driver and cashflow contributor to our business. In spite of Imperial Tobacco’s confidence that the market will not be affected, the all-out smoking ban in the workplaces will hurt trade.

Now BAT has thrown a spanner in the works with the proposed introduction of a safe cigarette. Others will no doubt follow but remember NSM (new smoking material) and the introduction of low tar products in the late 1970s? Neither made smoking any safer.

I am concerned about PG Tips’ decision not to provide the free teacup pack into the independent channel. What a fantastic boost it would have been to our sector if we had been offered exclusivity, or even a few thousand cases. Instead, we are given a price promotion that reduces both sales value and margin.

FRIDAY
After the failure of Baci, Nestlé will be looking to Pizazz, its Quality Street brand extension, to rebuild confidence in its NPD programme.

The 99p trial size is ideal to encourage consumers to trade up to larger cartons. We applaud it, too, for having the vision to produce a composite seasonal outer comprising a selection of seven products which will encourage retailers to broaden their Christmas offering with a minimum cash outlay. Other suppliers please note.

We are happy that Sir Anwar Pervez, a true cash and carry man, has won The Grocer Cup for Outstanding Business Achievement. At last, the food and drinks industry is beginning to recognise the importance of the independent sector and the role cash and carry plays in reaching tens of thousands of independently owned retail and catering outlets across Britain. What would really make our day now is supplier commitment to create a level playing field in relation to cost prices and marketing investment. Boy, then see what we could achieve!

We won’t be putting our money on a white Christmas as new Coca-Cola festive shrink- wrap designs suggests, but we do agree they bring cheer to the fixture – and the multi-buy deals on cans and PETs are excellent.

Coke’s marketing people say that the introduction of new flavours will bring excitement to the category. Great, but isn’t the consumer shift towards healthier drinks going to leave the struggling carbonate market a little flat?

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