Are you up to date with what’s happening in the world food arena? Tracy West takes you on a tour of the latest trends in global cuisine

Italian, Chinese and Indian might dominate the world foods market, but sales of Mexican food are growing, with the mainstream food brands now getting in on the act. For instance, Birds Eye has just added a Mexican variant to its chargrills range, while McCain Foods is launching Mexican Wedges.

Alan Castle, head of customer marketing at McCain Foods, says: “Mexican food is certainly growing in popularity (Mintel data) so we were keen to capitalise on this and develop a product that delivers excellent flavour as well as convenience.”

Retailer’s view

“We have an ethnic foods section in the store. Italian is by far the most popular; we sell a lot of pasta, sauces and pesto. That’s followed by Indian, then Chinese. Mexican is getting more popular, particular with younger shoppers who like tortillas and nachos for party food. 

“Ethnic food is definitely an impulse rather than a planned purchase. People don’t come in especially for it, but if they see it, they often then decide to have it for their tea.” 
Sailesh Patel, Londis, Deal, Kent

The company is also keen to expand the consumption opportunities for wedges generally by building its association with social occasions such as barbecues and movie nights. The movie night tie-in is being exploited via an on-pack competition as part of McCain Wedges’ partnership with Film4.

The brand has sponsored the Film4 9pm slot since July 2010. Late last year, together with Film4, McCain produced a series of clips called ‘4 Films For’ starring comedy duo Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller. The on-pack competition builds on this partnership by asking consumers to nominate their four favourite films for sharing and say why. Consumers have the chance to win a 3D TV, Blu-Ray player and Blu-Ray discs, with additional DVDs on offer for runners-up.

Meanwhile, Premier Foods is expanding its Loyd Grossman portfolio with the launch of two new chilli con carne sauces: classic chilli and fiery chilli. The company says the sauces use a “unique blend of quality ingredients to create the flavour and texture of a home-made sauce”. Both variants include lime and beer while the fiery chilli also features hot habanero chilli.

The sauces come in 350g and 660g jars, rrp £1.89 and £2.49 respectively.

According to Nielsen data, the Mexican category is currently worth £139.2m, and is growing by 9.8%. Chilli is the UK’s third most popular ethnic food, accounting for 247 million meal occasions every year and growing at 6.7% year on year (Kantar).

Jon Burton, marketing controller for Loyd Grossman, says: “The Loyd Grossman range is all about using the simplest and best ingredients, and never compromising on flavour. Our consumers are passionate about food and cooking, and want products that help create great-tasting meals in a matter of minutes. These new chilli con carne sauces are a great opportunity for retailers to drive incremental sales, as they will appeal to existing Loyd Grossman consumers as well as bring new shoppers to the brand.”

Meanwhile, Discovery says it has broken down the common misconception that all Mexican food is hot and spicy by introducing a range of separates in varying degrees of heat and spice. The idea is to introduce more consumers to contemporary Mexican flavours while reassuring them they can be mild too. Discovery also aims to demonstrate how easy it is to prepare Mexican food “the Discovery way”, which it says has attracted more families to the category.

In addition, Discovery has responded to the increasing demand for ‘free-from’ food by introducing the first-ever preservative-free tortilla, made using British flour. It joins separates such as fajita seasoning paste or fajita seasoning mix (now available in a new mild variant), as well as its salsa in mild, medium and hot.

Discovery’s campaign to “demystify Mexican cuisine” includes a marketing campaign encompassing television advertising, sampling at dedicated Discovery Roadshows, a programme of in-store promotions, targeted magazine advertising and public relations activity.

The Old El Paso brand is also doing its bit to remind consumers that not all Mexican food is spicy. It launched its family-friendly extra-mild, super-tasty flavour last year in a bid to draw in a whole new group of consumers, after research had shown that nearly one-quarter of female shoppers including those with families reject the Mexican category because they say the products are too spicy.

Andy Foweather, sales director at General Mills UK, says he would like to see independent retailers make the most of their Mexican offering by creating some in-store theatre around the category. “For example, why not try merchandising Old El Paso products next to drinks, meats, vegetables or other accompaniments, to offer a total mealtime solution for shoppers? The Old El Paso range of meal kits and separates can either be great party food for nights in with friends or a perfect solution for families who want to spend time dining together and getting these messages across in-store is a great way of boosting sales.”

Caribbean calling

While Mexican food is moving up the ranks so too is Caribbean food. In the past five years, the grocery multiples have got serious about Caribbean foods so now c-store retailers should follow suit. That’s the message from George Phillips, business development director at Grace Foods.

“Until the recession there was a considerable increase in people travelling and therefore becoming more adventurous in what they were eating,” he says, and he believes that has helped many Caribbean foods become mainstream lines.

“Products like D&G ginger beer are real mainstream lines now, as is our Nurishment enriched milk drink.”

Retailer’s view

“We’re a Caribbean and Asian food convenience store. Our best-sellers are things like akee, crackers and tinned milk. We also sell a lot of Enco sauces. Most of our customers are of Caribbean or Asian origin. We do get other customers, but they will only come to us if they are cooking a curry or an African meal, whereas the Caribbean and Asian people use us every day as a c-store. When we first opened we tried selling British lines like bread and milk, but they didn’t sell. Our customers go to Asda for those things. Unfortunately, Asda are now selling some of the Caribbean and Asian lines that we sell. But we do a lot of fresh Indian and West African fruit and veg and that’s what keeps us going, really.” 
Wasim Khaliq, Ambrosia, Walthamstow, London

Caribbean food still has some regionality, though. Phillips says London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol are key areas. “If I were a c-store retailer in Croydon, for example, I’d definitely assign a certain amount of space to Caribbean lines, but for any c-store anywhere else in the country I’d say ‘don’t leave it all to the specialists’. Try stocking the Encona sauces, for example.”

Grace Foods is supporting its Caribbean brands extensively this year. There will be sampling campaigns for Encona sauces and Nurishment as well as print media activity and outdoor advertising.

As ever, there is loads of activity in the Indian and Chinese sectors. Premier Foods recently extended its Sharwood’s range to offer consumers a complete Indian night in by adding a limited-edition chutney, relaunching its naans and adding chapattis.

According to TNS usage data, the curry meal occasion has grown by 37% since 2006, and about half of UK consumers eat Indian food at least every two weeks, with a quarter consuming it once a week or more.

The Sharwood’s brand is worth £88.2m (IRI data) and is growing by 6% ahead of category growth at 5%. Premier Foods has identified an opportunity to deliver £4.6m incremental sales to the category by increasing levels of purchase during Diwali and through driving the ‘restaurant night in’ trend.

Sharwood’s Green Label Chutney is celebrating its 120th birthday and to celebrate the brand has launched a limited-edition mango & kashmiri chilli chutney. Kashmiri chillies are a traditional variety native to India and while their flavour is milder than regular chillies, they give Indian dishes an authentic deep red colour. The new variant features a ‘120 years of Sharwood’s’ message on pack.

Premier says only 20% of Indian meal occasions include a naan, so there is a strong opportunity to drive incremental sales through increased usage. As a result, Sharwood’s has relaunched its naans with its ‘best ever recipe’. Using quality ingredients, Sharwood’s naans are baked in a clay-lined oven and hand stretched to create a traditional product. New packaging communicates the food values and available flavours. Sharwood’s new pack of eight plain chapattis completes the brand’s ambient bread offering.

Sharwood’s marketing controller Sarah Frederickson says: “Consumers tend to eat more Indian food towards the end of the week and at weekends, as well as at celebrations such as Diwali, so there is a real opportunity to up-weight the meal occasion.”

Don’t forget frozen

The latest market data (Kantar Worldpanel 52 weeks to December 2010) shows just how well the frozen ethnic snack market is performing. Over the last two-year period (December 2008 to 2010) it grew by 9.1% in value. This compares with growth of 4.6% for total frozen prepared foods. 

Geoff Burgess, managing director of Daloon Foods, says Oriental frozen ethnic snacks continue to be the most popular cuisine, accounting for 52% of the market by value. Daloon has just relaunched its mini snacks range. Two new packs have been added to the range: Daloon Indian Classics onion bhaji dippers, rrp £1.25, and Daloon Oriental Classics vegetable dim sum selection, rrp £1.75. In addition, three existing lines have been improved: Daloon Oriental Classics vegetable mini spring rolls, rrp £1.25; Daloon Oriental Classics duck mini spring rolls, rrp £1.75; and Daloon Indian Classics vegetable dhal mini samosas and mini onion bhajis, rrp £1.75.

For Chinese New Year in February, Premier added four new sauces to Sharwood’s Chinese range. These are: black bean infused with chopped ginger and garlic; yellow bean & chilli infused with rich soy sauce; soy & sesame infused with chopped ginger; and Szechuan pepper & tomato infused with crushed garlic.

The sauces are made with fresh ingredients to create a non-chunky consistency visible through a clear panel in the pouch.

According to IRI data, Sharwood’s is the number one Chinese cooking sauce brand with a 27% share of the market, worth £33m. A third of all stir-fry shoppers buy Sharwood’s and Premier says the introduction of a sauce in a pouch offers a significant sales opportunity for retailers, especially as Sharwood’s stir-fry range is already growing at 2.7%.

Blue Dragon recently underwent a £6m relaunch. Packaging was refreshed with a new Oriental tapestry design and new logo designed to improve brand awareness.

The activity also saw Blue Dragon enter the cooking sauce category with the launch of six flavours: chow mein, sweet chilli, sweet & sour, Chinese curry, Thai green and Thai red. Consumer research found that 61% of existing cooking sauce consumers would try the range.

The brand also entered the Oriental oven cook sector with a range of sticky sauces: Chinese BBQ; char sui; Peking; and teriyaki. The range aims to provide consumers with a convenient short cut to replicating a range of Oriental appetisers at home by basting or marinating, something which the ambient Oriental category doesn’t currently offer. And new Blue Dragon stir-fry shots come in six flavours: spicy satay; sweet sour; chilli coconut; sweet chilli; wasabi plum & Szechuan pepper. They are designed for consumers who are seeking a “more intense flavour experience”. There are also four new Oriental pastes: Chinese; Thai laksa; Thai red; and Thai green. 

Ones to watch

Taste of Italy 
Napolina is giving consumers the chance to win a variety of Italian-themed prizes, including Italian holidays, via special promotional packs of pasta sauces, canned tomatoes, pasta and olive oils. The promotion will also offer up to 8,000 product coupons to the runners-up to reward consumer loyalty. 
tel: 0151 236 9282 

Down Mexico way 
McCain Foods is adding Mexican Wedges to its range, in a bid to provide “some added spice” to the wedges category. The launch is part of the McCain Wedges ‘Perfect for Sharing’ strategy which aims to encourage consumers to enjoy wedges beyond the side of plate. 
rrp: £1.84 
tel: 01723 584 141 

Spice trail 
Birds Eye’s latest frozen development is a Mexican variant to join its successful Chargrills range. Available from this month, they will be sold alongside the original, peri peri and cracked black pepper, reggae reggae and lime & chilli variants, all made from 100% chicken breast. 
rrp: £1.69 
tel: 020 8918 3200 

Crossing borders 
Premium Indian food brand Meena is launching a range of Italian sauces. The two pasta and two bake-in-the-oven risotto sauces comprise: rich bolognese; spicy arrabbiata with roasted garlic; risotto alla primavera; and risotto al funghi. 
rrp: pasta sauces £1.99; 
       risotto £2.49 

tel: 01942 267 090 

A cut above 
La Pizza’s range of part-baked, frozen bases has been boosted with the launch of a garlic & rosemary variant. Also new are Tascas fully baked, folded soft bread pockets. All La Pizza’s products contain less than 1% salt and no preservatives. 
rrp: pizza bases £15.33 for 10; 
       Tascas, £13.09 for 24 

tel: 01730 811490