Food to go
With food- and drink-to-go dominating retailers' plans this year, manufacturers were out in force at this year's CRS.
Country Choice launched its new bread offer - 73 varieties are now available and it has revamped merchandising units catering for a variety of store sizes.
The company's Bake and Bite self-serve version of its 'Shop Within a Shop' format generated great interest from retailers,
as did its coffee and doughnut concept which displays up to 48 thaw-and-serve doughnuts alongside a bean-to-cup coffee machine.
There was no danger of nodding off with a huge variety of coffee-to-go machines available for retailers to test out. Simply Coffee displayed five units of differing sizes including an entry-level unit designed to cope with up to 50 cups a day. The bean-to-cup machine is available to retailers with a price tag of £3,495 but comes readily supplied with product to produce 3,000 cups of coffee.
Coffee Nation introduced its new Compact self-serve coffee machine. Coffee Nation operates on a revenue-share system between itself and retailers. Every machine is connected to the internet and monitored remotely for stock levels and service. All retailers need to do is a basic clean at the end of each working day.
Spar exhibited its new Kitsu Noodle concept, while the Subway stand proved popular as it dished out free six-inch subs and discussed franchise opportunities with retailers.
Elsewhere in the category Silesia-Velox displayed its range of high-speed contact grills with chefs using the company's equipment to knock up a full English breakfast in under three minutes.
Newcomers Tasty Tubs came to CRS looking for distributors for its resealable tubs of sugar confectionery and healthier snack foods which are targeted at people who don't like the idea of unwrapped sweets. The sweets, of which there are 22 varieties, retail at about the £1 mark, offering up to 32% margin.
Also hoping to increase distribution is Quality Retail with its Before & After Mints. The mints, a US brand, come in distinctive tins featuring different coloured pairs of lips and have two flavours per tin. The company is targeting women with the product and says that tins have become a collectable item in America.
Bobby's was at the show with its new Honeynut Popcorn bags and sugar confectionery in the shape of the Fizzy Rip Roll. Buzz Sweets was showing its 24-bag sweet stand which gives a 30% margin when fully loaded plus its huge range of novelty confectionery products. Sweet Cred was looking to Halloween with its new Trick or Treat Jackpot bag and furry spider glove puppets.
On the Unilever stand, the new range of ice cream launches were being displayed in Maxivision fridges and a new Cornetto on-pack promotion to win concert tickets was being highlighted to customers.
Impulse snacks were a big hit with visitors, with plenty of free samples to be had. Among them were Pringles Pocket Packs and Pringles Rice Infusions bite-size, which hit cash and carry shelves this month. Both products come in 35g bags with a rrp of 37p.
Elsewhere in the snacks category Food Explorers launched Snak&Dip under its Snackatoo brand. The rice crackers with dipping sauce are available in two variants, Thai Spice and Spare Rib. Company bosses are anticipating listings in Booker in the near future.
Dried meat snacks were also on display through Coan Biltong. The air-dried meat snack comes in seven variants and is currently available direct from Coan. Each variant can be displayed on a plastic hanging strip holding eight bags.
Sun Valley was showcasing its new range of indulgent nuts under the Loyd Grossman licence. The 50g snack packs are exclusive to the c-store sector and come in three variants - nut mixes containing real pieces of either caramelised red onion, black olive wedges or sun-dried tomatoes. They come in cases of 12, rrp £1.09.
The refrigeration equipment suppliers were out in force, with good reason; c-stores are typically doubling the length of their chilled displays to meet demand for fresh and chilled products, and with summer coming there's still time to leap onto the cooling wave.
Most exhibited new low-deck designs which allow more shelf space, and the emphasis was on energy saving, with manufacturers boasting approval under the Carbon Trust's Enhanced Capital Allowance tax-saving scheme.
Total Refrigeration launched a new version of the MaxiVision, the UK's best- selling ice cream freezer, and Husky introduced a first for the market - a three-tier stackable cabinet that enables retailers to store complementary products at different temperatures.
Many chilled displays, such as Capital Cooling's new Saturn range, are modular and can be connected to form long runs of chilled shelving.
Procter & Gamble threw its weight behind independent retailers with the launch of ShelfHelp 2008, a guide to increasing sales in the laundry, homecare, health and beauty and battery categories. The booklet, containing planograms and category management advice, was given away free to visitors.
A tip for retailers came from ChoicesUK, which predicts that the new Blu-Ray format will lead to an increase in DVD rentals this year, and with specialist rental shops closing, c-stores should see a surge in business.
Swedish greeting card manufacturer CardGroup made its UK debut, recruiting stores to distribute its high quality range.
As usual CRS gave visitors a glimpse of some imaginative new products, such as Gamucci's tobacco-free cigarette, the
Mi-Vox audio book player, and Pinks capsule-packed handy wipes.
Pictorial health warnings, a potential ban on 10-packs and display restrictions were the hot topics at the tobacco stands this year.
Retailers were reminded that they had until September 30, 2009 to sell out of products which displayed only textual health warnings.
Concerns were also expressed over plans to ban the sale of cigarettes in packs of 10 and impose restrictions on tobacco displays. Hiding cigarettes would result in longer queuing times, costly store refits and weakened security, retailers said. Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco agreed that such a move could also prompt a rise in the illicit tobacco trade. The government will consult on both these potential restrictions this summer.
Environmental concerns look set to drive innovation in the soft drinks category this year, according to CRS exhibitors. Andrew McAdam, sales director of the Silver Spring Mineral Water company, said that reducing carbon emissions was now a key priority for many manufacturers. "We constantly strive to reduce the amount of packaging required, and by keeping our operations in a single site we can effectively combat emissions caused by transport," he said. Another trend to look out for in 2008 is 'naturalness', said GSK, the company behind popular brands Lucozade, Ribena and Horlicks. It recently launched Ribena 100% Pure Juices which contain no added colours, flavours or preservatives and only the sugars that are naturally present in the fruit.
Fresh and chilled
Kepak was promoting its Rustler's and Ugo's range of microwavable burgers and paninis. Ugo's was launched in October last year to target female consumers. The core Rustler's range - quarter-pounder, chicken sandwich and BBQ rib - is also now available in pricemarked packs at £1.89.
Holland's unveiled its new range of pastry slices in four variants. The new products, rrp £1.39, are distributed by Holland's van sales service across the North West, and via distributors in Scotland, the North East and the Midlands, and the company is now looking for distributors to cover the South.
Brambles Foods displayed sandwiches, wraps and baguettes, as well as the Cranks vegetarian brand. Already big in foodservice, Brambles is looking to attract more c-store customers. There are 400 lines, which can be delivered nationwide, six days a week. Minimum order is 50-70 pieces.
Oakhouse introduced its 275-strong range of frozen ready meals and desserts to the retail market. Established as a home-delivery service, Oakhouse is now looking to expand into retail. The products include everything from roast dinners and puff pastry pie ready meals, to sticky toffee pudding and pineapple pancakes, with rrps ranging from £1.15 for an apple crumble to £5.40 for a minted lamb steak meal.
They are aimed at the older consumer, with the average age of the Oakhouse customer being 80.