Love it or loathe it, but Tesco is the barometer for food consumption in the UK. So when the company announces it is expanding its ethnic food range we all need to sit up and listen.
Tesco says it has doubled the number of ‘World Foods’ it stocks and is now testing Turkish, Sri Lankan, Latin, Filipino and African foods, which demonstrates how diverse British tastes have become.
Ethnic food has always been a big seller in the cash and carry sector and Bestway says all its branches carry a large range. Zahir Abdullah, negotiator for ethnic foods at the Bestway and Batleys wholesale group, says: “In certain parts of London, Bradford and the North, there are bigger ranges because of the greater Asian populations, but it is clear that ethnic foods are selling well across the country.”
He continues: “It’s interesting that the traditional ethnic sector has now crossed over the boundaries from being seen as a ‘special’ and exclusive world of its own. In a sense there is a ‘normalisation’ about this sector and independent retailers need to appreciate that. We have seen products like Old El Paso enter the market and make a great success of it. There are not masses of Mexicans living in the UK who might have influenced that, so the great sales success has come from the indigenous population who see traditional ‘ethnic’ products as regular items on their shopping list.”
According to IRI data (grocery outlets, 52 weeks to October 30, 2010) Old El Paso is the UK’s number one Mexican brand. When you think ‘fajita’ you think ‘spicy’ but last year a ‘family-friendly’ extra mild, super tasty flavour was added to the Old El Paso range.
Andy Foweather, sales director at brand owner General Mills UK, says the aim was to draw in a new group of consumers, after research had shown that nearly one-quarter of female shoppers including those with families reject the Mexican category because they say the products are too spicy.
Gurmail Singh Lal, marketing manager at Map Trading, says some independent retailers may be put off stocking ethnic lines by the amount of stock that they have to hold but he reckons Map Trading can help.
“Map is a leading supplier of ethnic foods and it’s part of Bestway. As such it has been proactive in increasing the range and availability of key ethnic products in smaller pack sizes. For example, 100g spices, 500g lentils, 500g flours and 500g rice are traditionally only available from cash and carries in packs of 20.
“We produce these products in packs of 10, under the brand name White Pearl, and these are available from Bestway and Batley branches across the country. The 10-packs take up less shelf space and enable the smaller c-store retailers to stock a wider range of ethnic foods with a much smaller capital outlay.”
Kohinoor Foods has enjoyed success working with Booker to sell its rice products, which include Kohinoor Platinum and Silver and Tohfa Super Kernel basmati rice.
Managing director Sumit Arora says: “Our Kohinoor Platinum amp; Silver Basmati rice range is performing extremely well at Booker and our Long Grain Rice, although launched only recently, is consistently building sales.”
As retailers keep an eye on their cash outlay, so do consumers. Some have tightened their purse strings by switching from restaurant meals to takeaways while others have swapped their regular takeaways to home-cooked food. To aid the latter trend, Premier Foods has extended its Sharwood’s range to offer consumers a “complete Indian night in”.
There is a new limited edition chutney, a re-launched range of naans with a new recipe, as well as a new range of chapattis.
Sarah Frederickson, marketing controller for Sharwood’s, says: “The Indian opportunity has huge potential for growth and Sharwood’s is perfectly placed to help cash and carries capitalise on the curry occasion. The curry meal occasion has grown by 37% since 2006 (TNS), and about half of UK consumers eat Indian food at least every two weeks, with a quarter consuming it once a week or more.”
She reckons Sharwood’s is the perfect brand to lead the curry occasion. “It is worth pound;88.2m (IRI value sales), and is delivering strong performance in Indian (+6%) ahead of category growth (+5%). We have identified an opportunity to deliver pound;4.6m incremental sales to the category by increasing levels of purchase during Diwali and by driving the ‘restaurant night in’ trend.”
Sharwood’s Green Label chutney has now been around for 120 years. To celebrate this milestone, the brand has unveiled a limited edition mango amp; kashmiri chilli chutney, which features a ‘120 years of Sharwood’s’ message on pack. It will be backed by a PR and marketing campaign.
Currently only 20% of Indian meal occasions feature a naan, so Frederickson says there is a strong opportunity to drive incremental sales through increased usage. As a result, Sharwood’s is re-launching its range of naans with its ‘best ever recipe’. Sharwood’s new offering of eight plain chapattis completes the brand’s ambient bread offering.
“Consumers tend to eat more Indian food towards the end of the week and at weekends, as well as at celebrations such as Diwali, so there is a real opportunity to up-weight the meal occasion,” says Frederickson.
To make more of ethnic foods Paul Rostand, managing director of Brand Innovations, reckons cash and carries and wholesalers should be encouraged to create an Indian curry night pack.
“This would be the perfect one-stop product for foodservice customers seeking a convenient ‘kit’ which is ideal for theme nights and events. The pack would comprise a selection of different items to ensure that a full meal can be created so would include everything from the starters and accompaniments, to the main meal ingredients, through to the side orders and dips. This would be good for pub operators in particular.”
He recommends that cash and carries/wholesalers list an authentic ethnic range such as Brand Innovations’ DelhiBites frozen snacks. These are handmade in India, to traditional recipes, using locally-grown ingredients to ensure that customers can purchase a ‘true taste of India’. “Authenticity and provenance are key marketing factors, which wholesalers can offer via the DelhiBites range,” he says. Products include naan breads, spring rolls, samosas and onion bhajis as well as selection packs.
Recent market data from Kantar Worldpanel reveals that the UK frozen ethnic snack market continues to perform well. Between September 2008 and September 2010 it grew by 12.9% in value. Chinese and Oriental frozen ethnic snacks are most popular, accounting for 48% of the market by value.
Daloon is cashing in on this trend with the recent launch of its Great Dragon premium range of dim sum products. The range comprises: sesame prawn toast; mixed dim sum selection (sweet chilli vegetable wontons, chicken Thai green curry moneybags and prawn crackers); and Imperial Thai dim sum selection (duck crackers, Thai fish cakes and Thai vegetable moneybags).
Meanwhile, Oriental food brand Blue Dragon is undergoing a pound;6m re-launch in time for the Chinese New Year on February 3.
The brand’s packaging has been refreshed to feature an authentic Oriental tapestry design, which will be rolled out across the entire range. There is also a new logo to help improve brand awareness.
A key part of the re-launch sees Blue Dragon enter two new categories. First the brand is entering the cooking sauce category with six flavours: chow mein, sweet chilli, sweet amp; sour, Chinese curry, Thai green and Thai red. The company says these are the market’s first-ever chow mein and Chinese curry cooking sauces.
Blue Dragon research found that 61% of existing cooking sauce consumers would try the range.
The company is also entering the Oriental oven cook sector with a range of sticky sauces. The four ‘restaurant-classic’ variants (Chinese BBQ, char sui, Peking and teriyaki) have been created to provide consumers with a convenient short-cut to replicating Oriental appetisers at home by basting or marinating.
In addition, to build on the success of its existing stir fry range, Blue Dragon is launching stir fry Shots. There are six flavours: spicy satay, sweet sour, chilli coconut, sweet chilli, wasabi plum and szechuan pepper.
Tracy Hughes, Blue Dragon consumer and trade marketing controller, says: “Our new stir fry Shots are perfect for consumers seeking a more intense flavour experience.”
Four new pastes complete Blue Dragon’s new product development.
Hughes explains: “Unlike the Indian pastes market, no other brand currently offers consumers an easy-to-use Oriental paste which doesn’t require any additional, specialist ingredients to be added. With its strong Oriental heritage and roots in specialist ingredients, Blue Dragon has transformed this by introducing an authentic and credible range – Chinese, Thai laksa, Thai red and Thai green containing all the essential ingredients required to create an authentic and flavoursome dish.”
The re-launch will be supported by a heavyweight national TV advertising campaign, on air for three months from Chinese New Year.
“This is a truly exciting time for the Blue Dragon brand,” says Hughes. “We’ve placed considerable investment behind the re-launch, which can only be described as one of the biggest in the category for a long time.”
Caribbean food and drink supplier Enco Products is also promising “big brand investment” this year. Since its acquisition by Caribbean company Grace Kennedy, the focus has been on increasing the support for its core brands including Encona Sauces and the Grace range.
Nyree Chambers, Enco Products’ marketing manager, promises a “strong focus on innovation and new product development”.
“As category leaders we are aware of our responsibility to deliver incremental growth and profit opportunities by encouraging loyalists to continue to buy the products and urging new consumers to buy into the category,” she says.
The company will launch targeted sampling campaigns to drive consumers to the fixtures. There will also be new Encona sauces supported by sampling, online and print media activity and outdoor advertising.
Ethnic foodservice specialist The Authentic Food Company has launched a new consumer facing brand, Authentic Kitchen, offering snacks and ready meals, in cash and carries.
Carly Taylor, marketing manager, explains: “After undertaking an extensive research project we noticed a gap in the market for a more premium snacking and ready meal solution within the cash and carry market. We found that the cash and carries were now competing directly against major wholesalers and attracting new channels, such as pubs, hotels and conference and banqueting venues. It therefore seemed the obvious next step to move into cash and carries making our products available to a wider market.”
The snack range consists of Onion Bhajis, Vegetable and Spinach Pakoras, Vegetable Samosas and Vegetable Spring Rolls. The snacks are packed 24 x 30g and can be cooked in the oven at 200 deg;C for 15 minutes making them an ideal solution for both at home catering or within foodservice outlets for functions and parties.
The meal range is made up of individual and multi portion options. They include Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Korma and Chicken Balti. The individual lines are packed 6 x 340g and can be placed in simmering water for 15 minutes. The multi-portion lines are packed 1 x 2.1kg and can be cooked in a 1725W microwave for 20 minutes.