Last year was certainly great for Britain, with the success of London 2012, Sir Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. And this year’s been none too shabby either, with Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, Chris Froome emulating Wiggins’ Tour de France victory and the birth of a certain royal baby, all helping to keep Britain a major player on the world stage.
That’s the share of food we consume which Britain itself produces, according to the National Farmers’ Union. The figure is down from 75% in 1991
Food-wise, last year you couldn’t move for products with the Union flag boldly emblazoned upon them - whether they were made in Britain or not. But earlier this year the ‘horsegate’ scandal broke, hitting many of the grocery multiples and certain frozen food brands where it hurt.
However, the shocking revelations did, strangely, do the British food industry a favour, as it put the spotlight firmly on sourcing and provenance.
Mintel research before and after the scandal found that in December 2012 four in ten (40%) Brits agreed that British food was better quality than imported food, but in just three months, post-scandal, this figure had risen to one in two (49%).
Mintel discovered that although traceability was of concern to only 14% of British shoppers, it had risen from just 6% three months before.
Not only is British origin growing in importance, but consumers are also becoming more passionate about supporting British farmers and growers. Three-quarters of all consumers believe it is the duty of retailers to support British farmers and growers, and a third of the nation say they are willing to pay more for food and drink with a “made in Britain” label - a figure which has risen from a quarter (24%) last year.
One brand that makes a big deal of its British credentials is Ginsters, which recently refreshed its packaging and extended its range. Redesigned packs feature icons highlighting Ginsters’ British sourcing message - which head of brand marketing Andy Valentine says is more important than ever as UK consumers become more focused on where the meat they are eating is sourced from.
“At Ginsters, we are really proud to be British because, although it’s only a small island, we are extremely self-sufficient, growing everything from the best-quality vegetables, chillies and spices, to having some of the best meats available.
“We have a long-standing relationship within the Cornish community, getting meat, eggs and root vegetables from local businesses. Working with farms as close to home as possible means we can keep a close eye on the quality of our ingredients, and get them delivered straight to our bakery in peak condition.”
Another firm that delights in its Britishness is Yeo Valley, an independent, family-owned farming and dairy business in Blagdon, North Somerset. It is the largest organic brand in the UK, purchasing organic milk from OMSCo, a co-operative of organic farms, as well as from its own herd of pedigree British Friesian cows.
It began making yogurt in 1972 and now has four production dairies at Blagdon, Cannington, Crewkerne and Newton Abbot. The company employs more than 1,500 people and holds the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development.
To celebrate this year’s British Food Fortnight (running from September 21 to October 6) Yeo Valley is adding the slogan ‘Buy British’ to some of its most popular yogurts, to encourage shoppers to “discover the diverse and delicious range of food that Britain has to offer”.
So, from September 21, the company’s top products will have their familiar logo replaced with the patriotic slogan along with some Union flag bunting.
Family-run Warburtons has a strong British heritage of more than 135 years of baking expertise. Established in a grocery shop in Bolton in 1876 by Thomas and Ellen Warburton, today the business is run by the fifth generation of the Warburton family - Brett, Jonathan and Ross - and has grown to be the UK’s most chosen fmcg brand (Kantar Brand Footprint Study) and the country’s biggest baker.
British Food Fortnight 2013
This year’s British Food Fortnight (BFF), which runs from September 21 to October 6, will revert to its roots and celebrate harvest time. That’s because when the celebrations kicked off way back in 2002, BFF was conceived as a modern-day harvest festival with the support of 10 vicars.
The ‘Bring Home the Harvest’ promotion provides the platform to support British produce in your local community. In association with The Telegraph, BFF is searching the country for the most “innovative, inclusive and imaginative” harvest celebration during the period. Winners will be selected from a panel of judges which includes Raymond Blanc and Alan Titchmarsh.
For more information, go to www.lovebritishfood.co.uk.
The company found inspiration for its advertising strap-line ‘Warburtons - From Our Family To Yours’ from consumers writing to Jonathan Warburton. He receives thousands of quirky letters from consumers saying just how much they love Warburtons products. Each ad therefore starts with a TV voiceover narration, which begins with ‘Dear Jonathan Warburton’.
While it’s all well and good selling British products, you’ve got to get your customers excited about them, too. Warburton category strategy controller Martin Baptie recommends linking British foods with events such as the recent Ashes series, and reflecting this in merchandising and display, which he says could then open new sales opportunities. “Retailers should make sure they have a strong range of relevant products stocked in preparation for displays tying in with such events.
“Cross-category promotions are key to unlocking additional sales and by merchandising key British products together alongside relevant items for these events - such as bunting, paper plates and plastic cups - you will encourage purchase and drive growth.”
But Ruth Griffiths, marketing director at Karro Food Group, one of Britain’s leading pork producers, strikes a word of warning, saying that communicating British provenance is not as simple as putting a Union flag on the packet. “Packaging, shelf strips, barkers, header boards, vertical bus stop signs and so on all help. Ideally, shops need to put out the bunting to get the message across clearly to shoppers, but that requires all products in that part of the fixture to be British or the store risks incurring the wrath of shoppers and lobby groups.”
“Many of our customers like to buy British and locally-produced goods. All our meat from Londis - items such as beef quarter-pounders, steak mince and chicken - is clearly labelled as British and Farm Assured. But it’s local fruit and veg that shoppers really want to see.
“We are currently selling Kent strawberries from the nearby village of Egerton and getting through 100 punnets a week. We’ve got local cherries from Faversham, and we had asparagus when that was in season a few months ago.
“It’s really great working with local producers and in most grocery categories across the store we have some local lines. We’ve got honey from Headcorn and apple juice from Biddenden.
“We make our own pos to promote local goods because customers like to know exactly where it has come from and that produce hasn’t travelled half-way round the world to get to us.”
Vin Patel, Londis, Charing, Kent
So, if you say something’s British make sure it is, and if you can pinpoint exactly where it was made in Britain, even better.
Even with its exotic sounding flavours, Pipers Crisps takes great pride in the provenance and ‘Britishness’ of its products. The company works closely with independent farmers who have generations of experience producing GM-free potatoes.
The crisps are flavoured using ingredients sourced from artisans who use traditional skills. These include Kirkby Malham chorizo, Lye Cross Cheddar & onion Anglesey sea salt and Biggleswade sweet chilli.
Pipers is keen to support retailers by making sure its crisps offer a point of difference - for this reason the firm has pledged never to sell through the major mults. It also believes that retailers are best placed to determine their own margins so has made a commitment to never offer pricemarked packs.
Toast of the town
Drinks brands, too, have been cashing in on ‘great’ Britain. Earlier this year, Gordon’s gin introduced two quintessential British flavours: Gordon’s & Tonic with a hint of cucumber and with a dash of elderflower.
There’s nothing more British than cricket and Westons Cider’s Stowford Press is reinforcing this link by being the Official Cider of England Cricket.
Westons Cider managing director Helen Thomas says: “It is important to us to promote our British credentials as consumers are becoming more and more focused on provenance.
“Westons Cider is based in the West Country, which has always been a cider stronghold. We find that our consumers are very concerned with where our cider is produced and this is a big selling point for us. All our cider is produced on the same site in Herefordshire and has been since the business was founded in 1880. As much as 80% of our fruit is sourced from Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire and we only use original recipes.”
With such a wealth of home-grown talent on our doorstep, and shoppers keen to buy, it may be time to flag up national brands a little more and show off the best of British to a greater effect.
Ones to watch
Wyke Farms’ Help for Heroes-endorsed ‘Mature Cheddar for Heroes’ is being supported by The Co-operative Group. The group has pledged to match fund the 7p from every 300g pack that’s contributed to the charity, which supports injured service people.
tel: 01749 813614
Ex-Blur bassist-turned-cheesemaker Alex James is fronting Red Tractor’s Trust The Tractor campaign. Supported by national online advertising and PR activity, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the Red Tractor logo and encourage shoppers to look for it when purchasing their food.
tel: 020 7630 3320
Try me, love me
Spar wholesaler James Hall & Co Ltd has relaunched its Hall’s Family Butchers meat range. New packaging highlights the British origin and traceability of the meat and includes a ‘Try Me Love Me’ on-pack guarantee. New POS material also focuses on the provenance of the meat.
tel: 01772 706666
Push for penguins
A partnership between McVitie’s Penguin and the Zoologicial Society of London (ZSL) will see the biscuit brand donate £80,000 to help safeguard the future of penguins. All McVitie’s Penguin packs feature a new design and there will also be a social media campaign.
tel: 020 8234 5000
Slice of TV
McVitie’s Cake Company is sponsoring TV comedy channel Gold, which broadcasts home-grown comedies including Absolutely Fabulous, Miranda and Mrs Brown’s Boys. The sponsorship runs until December 8 and features 15 idents as part of the campaign.
tel: 020 8234 5000