Living with Amazon and thriving in times of change.

Not a day goes by without news of the rise of Amazon and the demise of the rest of us.

Commentators are eager to talk up the future of online shopping and the fall of the traditional food markets with everything from the corner shop to the giant supermarkets falling prey to this global phenomena.

It is true that Amazon are soaking up the repeat purchases required for our hectic lives but to do this they are slowly encouraging generic solutions . It’s not a short step from Alexa I need my branded muesli to Alexa please send me Amazon Muesli…

The good news is that speciality food is growing in popularity. In an article in the USA ‘Food Dive’ online food blog they referred to a Mintel report that showed speciality food sales in the USA had grown 9 times as fast as other food and now accounted for 15.8% of the USA retail food market. The article went on to demonstrate that speciality food was not now just for the gourmet speciality retailers.

The same is true in the UK , the next generation of consumers have more interest in experiences than brands. Increasingly all consumers are looking for forms of personalisation of their food. This could be health related (gluten free, sugar free), ethically related (vegan, palm oil free) or trend related (superfoods, new flavours or ingredients from local or international places).

The traditional grocery markets dominated by the supermarkets relied on being the trends setters, controlling supply chains that delivered established brands. They are now under attack from online sources such as Amazon who can undercut on brand price and commodity price. They are also facing discounters who up until now, by avoiding focus on brands, have managed to undercut on commodity price.

In this time of change, the large UK supermarket retailers are trying to find their place in the new grocery market and Amazon is trying to buy its way in (already got Whole Foods and rumoured to be looking at one of our UK supermarkets) So what are the choices for the fine food sector in the UK?

It’s the same as its always been. Protect your provenance, keep up with new trends, know your customers and your suppliers. Be the best at what you do and never fight the giant retailers (including Amazon) on their terms.

Again from the USA, in the words of Robin McNamara of Roche Bros (a 20 store operator in Massachusetts) “We are always on the hunt for unique items, and doing the best we can to stay ahead of what’s trending in flavors and concepts, as well as specific categories.”

In the UK we have a growing fine food sector full of truly entrepreneurial ideas. We were fortunate enough to spend some time with Maria Whitehead of Hawkshead Relish this week and saw her Black Garlic Ketchup been bottled. This ketchup has now won numerous national awards and is just one example of the vast array of superb fine food ideas out there. So we as the fine food retailers can bring products like this to an increasingly discerning consumer as they turn their backs on the mass produced brand focused food market of the previous century.

Happy retailing….

Keith & Jacqui Jackson Thomas Jardine & Co https://www.thomasjardineandco.co.uk/ email:[email protected]


Cumbrian food producers get set to stand together at Farm Shop & Deli Show

Our county’s vibrant and diverse food & drink scene has made Cumbria a must-visit destination for foodies in recent years. Local food festivals and farmers markets have flourished as a result but now a group of innovative food & drink producers want to join forces to take Cumbria’s finest to the national stage at the NEC Farm and Deli Show in April 2019.

The seed was sown at this year’s Farm Shop & Deli Show in April when a small number of Cumbria-based food & drink businesses exhibited their produce to an audience of 30,000 trade buyers over 3 days. Despite their independent successes, they noticed the gathering crowds of buyers at the large county and regional stands and the idea of the ‘This is Cumbria’ initiative was born!

With collective efforts from Jacqui and Keith Jackson at Thomas Jardine & Co, who specialise in generational food businesses and food entrepreneurs and Sue Howorth from The Family Business Network Ltd, the project has been launched to offer trade stand space and sponsorship opportunities. Speaking about the initiative, Keith Jackson said “Maria from Hawkshead Relish and Lisa from Gingerbakers has secured the best location for our ‘This is Cumbria’ stand adjacent to the Live Stage to help us to create a real buzz and curiosity around the produce, but also to offer a unique one stop shop for buyers, retailers, distributers and suppliers to come and experience a taste of Cumbria”.

Already working closely with many Cumbrian food and drink business through The Family Business Network, Sue Howorth commented “The ‘This is Cumbria’ stand represents great value and a one-off opportunity for those new to the world of exhibitions or for businesses with tight marketing budgets to sell more products nationally or internationally. We are offering a range of stand sizes from shared space which is ideal for first-timers, to larger stands for the more established”. Other incentives for joining the Cumbria stand will include the sharing of logistics and travel costs, collecting buying power for show sundries, plus the use of a dedicated central meeting space within the stand for exhibitors to meet and talk with potential customers and trade press.

Maria Whitehead MBE of Hawkshead Relish plans to hold a Masterclass prior to the Show to offer advice and support to fellow Cumbrian exhibitors on how to get the best from the show. Speaking from experience, she commented “This is the sector’s leading event and it brings together over 450 exhibitors which attracts thousands of key buyers from the food and drink retail market over the three days. It gives us a brilliant opportunity to launch new products, generate new sales leads, network and meet with existing clients and to generate some good PR coverage. We hope that this unique opportunity will encourage local businesses to join us and exhibit next year alongside like-minded Cumbria producers”.

The Farm Shop & Deli Show takes place at the NEC from 8-10th April 2019. If you are a Cumbria-based food or drink producer and are interested in reserving trade space, please contact our ‘This is Cumbria’ project coordinators, Keith and Jacqui Jackson via email [email protected] The team are also inviting businesses to join the venture as a Sponsor of the ‘This is Cumbria’ stand.

More information about the 2019 Farm Shop and Deli Show can be found at www.farmshopanddelishow.co.uk


Big fish little pond or small fish big pond?

Defining your local place is never easy especially when you come to setting a border where everything beyond is not local…. Think about the political boundaries that already exist from parish to local councils to counties to countries. All these political boundaries have an impact on your place. To fix the impact of these areas our politicians simply invent new areas our city fish (Carlisle) will see impacts from the new ‘ponds’ created from BREXIT to devolution to the LEPs to Northern Powerhouse to Borderlands and I am sure yours will be the same.

All these areas seek to redefine the pond in which our city fish swim, in some cases we (Carlisle) are bigger than one pond (parish councils) in others we are still a relatively large fish (Borderlands) and in others we start to feel like minnows (Northern Powerhouse).

The question I think we all need to ask ourselves is “do we treat the smaller fish in our pond in a way that we would want the larger fish to treat us?”. At one end of the ‘pond spectrum’ is the totally equitable approach to place management where every fish gets the same share of the collective food bank. At the other end is the idea that the pond needs to feed the big fish so that it can protect the smaller fish from any large fish from neighbouring ponds. Do you feel yourself moving towards the equitable argument when your in a really large pond and towards the support the big fish argument when you’re in a small pond?

I know it’s more complicated than that. Projects aimed at social change are arguably better based as close to the end user as possible so for instance, drop in centres and community spaces all need to be spread across the pond. Whilst funded capital projects concentrated on one or two projects could arguably create anchors that would attract either visitors or employers to an area. This was certainly the argument back in the day of anchor stores for high streets or anchor multinational firms for industry strategy , times are changing as I heard at a meeting recently “ one large factory does not a local economy make” and the prospect of House of Fraser leaving our High Street demonstrates the lack of control your local area has over national retail chains. Having said that, focused action that is directly linked to your local area can have huge impact on your place, from May-July we were fortunate enough to host the ‘weeping window’ poppy display that poured over our castle keep and this has definitely increased the number of visitors to our area. The display originally set up at the Tower of London has toured the country for the last four years and Carlisle Castles connection as a recruitment base during the First World War meant we were fortunate enough to be one of the hosts for this magnificent thought provoking display.

As we all negotiate our share of the pond perhaps we should reflect the reason for the poppy display. The display in Carlisle is there because of the 23,000 recruits who passed through the castle during the First World War, 7,000 paid the ultimate sacrifice and died defending their pond. When those running the pond get it wrong, it’s often the fish that pay the price.

So the next time you feel like a fish in a pond , ask yourself :are you allowing enough of a share for your smaller neighbours and are you also supporting your bigger neighbours as they stand up for your pond.

 


The Rise of Provenance


The rise in consumer interest in the provenance of their food driven by food scares and a desire to understand what we are feeding our children is possibly going to become more polarised into ‘cost conscious’ and ‘food conscious’ consumers. The rise of retail mergers may mean ‘provenance’ becomes a key point of difference for certain retailers.

Retail is changing, Sainsbury and ASDA merging is part of a major shake up in food retail similar to that of the UKs retail banking industry back in the 70s and 80s . The large retail multiples only tend to merge when they run out of ideas to grow their market share organically.

The merging of the banks led to the disappearance of many high street names…first in the banks like Midland, Coutts, Williams & Glyns and later the disappearance of many Building Society Names through to Bradford & Bingley. It was not all closures…there was the appearance of new international players like HSBC and Santander and new startups like Virgin and online solutions …First Direct.

The merger of Sainsbury and ASDA may in some part be to new alliances of other food retailers, specifically Tesco’s merger with Booker which effectively brings many local high street names under one banner (One Stop, Budgens, Londis , Family Shopper and Premier will all be supplied by the new group); the Coops takeover of NISA brings the Costcutter and NISA brand into the Coops supply chain and Morrisons developing relationship with Amazon.

Large mergers are generally made to cut costs which usually means simplifying the supply chain. The discounters (Aldi and Lidl) simplify the chain by limiting choice this allows them to support provenance at a national level (allowing Lidl to promote Scottish Food), Tesco has tended to simplify its supply chain by cutting suppliers and reducing opportunities to celebrate provenance. Morrisons and the Coop both celebrate provenance at a local and regional level using this as a key point of difference.

It will be interesting to see where the focus of the new Sainsbury/ASDA group lies (reduction in suppliers or focus on regional/local provenance). The choice may well depend on the focus of us as consumers and interestingly last month saw the launch of Happerley an organisation focused on promoting genuine food provenance. If you have a genuine desire to see the growth of your local food industry we would suggest you check Happerley out, it was officially launched at the Farm Shop & Deli Show in April with support from amongst others Adam Henson (BBC Countryfile) Peter Jinman (Head of DEFRA Animal Welfare) & Philip Pononby (CEO Mid-Counties Co-operative) and if this works it has the chance to change the attitude of the food supply chain in the UK for ever.

Food provenance should not just be about supporting trendy/exclusive local food it should be about creating a genuine food supply for all that is focused on its area and genuinely supports a local/regional taste for our local high street food offering.

First published in Place Magazine for Revive and Thrive

if you want to talk food contact us at [email protected]