Blimey Good Sales

British foods abound

By Melanie Franner

The market size of the specialty food stores industry in Canada is expected to increase 5.7 per cent to reach $3.2 billion in 2021, according to an August 2020 IBISWorld report. This follows a 0.4 per cent decline per year on average between 2016 and 2021, which is a faster decline than the overall economy.

The industry report cites the level of household disposable income as a significant factor in the purchase and consumption of industry products, with consumers feeling more inclined to purchase goods outside of their staple dietary needs when the level of disposable income is on the rise.

Specialty foods can cover the gamut – across multiple ethnicities and multiple product categories. But one constant within the sector is British foods.

Eye on the pie

“Awareness is always a big factor in selling British foods,” says Matt Riddell, vice-president food sales, TFB & Associates Limited. “Getting products on the shelf is critical, but potential customers need to know the product is available. It isn’t always about price. Promotion is what brings the awareness.”

With awareness comes sales. And according to industry experts, opportunity abounds.

“We see significant potential for continued growth in British foods,” says Chuck Corrigan, business manager, C.B. Powell. “British foods have a strong heritage and tradition. This is driving demand for new ‘foreign’ brands, more variety and more quality brands sourced from the U.K.”

Strong roots

Federated Co-operatives Limited has 200+ stores across western Canada. They carry a diverse offering that includes many ethnic foods from a range of nationalities.

“Right now, Mexican and Asian foods are really popular, but British does very well too,” says Lorry Noble, category manager, food department, Federated Co-operatives, adding that British foods were added to the mix about three years ago. “British confectionary, chocolates in particular, is a big seller for us.”

Eric McLean, owner of Nanaimo-based McLean’s Specialty Foods, also caters to a distinctive customer base.

”We have a strong base of ‘foodies’, people who have travelled a lot and have acquired a taste for more specialized foods,” explains McLean. “We also have a large British and South African market. But our number one draw is probably our cheese. We have one of the largest selections of cheese on the island.”

McLean cites British meats (think haggis, real British bacon, black pudding and the like) as one of the store’s staples, along with its selection of the store’s own baked goods (think sausage rolls, steak and kidney pies, etc.).

And, of course, there is the traditional confectionary offering, like sticky toffee and chocolate.

McLean explains that the store came about by happenstance, but has since become a staple of the community. The key, he adds, is building strong, long-lasting relationships with customers.

The British way

Differentiating between selling traditional grocery items versus British SKUs may be one way to capture more consumer interest.

Corrigan suggests that grocers accentuate a product’s authentic British origins and quality to get the most out of the category.

“Retailers also need to rely on their suppliers to provide unique character details that help distinguish the product,” he adds.

Over at TFB & Associates, Riddell suggests that retailers line British products on the shelf with other competitive products to give consumers the best choices when shopping the category. But, most important, he emphasizes, is awareness.

“It is vital that retailers and importers work together to plan effective awareness campaigns to initiate trial,” he says. “It’s important to let consumers know that products exist.”

Trending British

Today’s grocers offer a broad mix of product across many different categories. Whether it’s to meet the demands of the “foodie” customer or of people seeking tastes of home, sales of specialty ethnic products are on the rise. And amidst this growing array of choices, British foods remain a continued staple.

British influence extends far and wide. And with it, ample opportunity for growth. 

Product sidebar

Let’s get Naked

Leading U.K. brand Naked Noodle is on trend with a tantalizing range of delicious Pan Pacific flavours in a “Better for You” healthier, single-serve format. The Asian-seasoned noodle brand is available from C.B. Powell in four varieties: Thai Style Sweet Chili; Chinese Style Chow Mein; Thai Style Green Curry; and Singapore Style Curry. The product uses natural ingredients, no artificial colours or preservatives, is vegetarian, and is low in fat, salt and calories.

A British twist

Think James Bond and his classic dry martini – shaken, not stirred – and you’ll get a feel for how some Brits think about their cocktails. TFB & Associates hopes Canadians are just as particular, and that they will gravitate to its British Fever-Tree brand of premium mixers. To help promote the brand, the importer runs periodic price reductions at shelf, supported with in-floor flyers, with its retailers. Many retailers also initiate “out of section” product displays in high-traffic and high-visible areas within the store.


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