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:hello@thomasjardineandco.co.uk


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 hello@thomasjardineandco.co.uk