If you want a hint of just how huge the world food category is going to be in the future, just sneak a peek at what the kids are eating now.


That’s the share of regular food shoppers who say they now eat spicier food compared with a few years ago, according to Mintel

As switched-on parents will have noticed, today’s school and nursery menus are just as likely to feature curries and falafels as more traditional kiddie fare.

According to Mintel, more than half (58%) of parents who are fans of ethnic food agree it’s important to introduce children to different cuisines. Which means that when these junior consumers come of age, the UK’s reputation as the planet’s meat ‘n’ two veg capital will be buried for ever.

This is great news for a category that’s already on the up. Mintel reports that value sales leapt 28% between 2007 and 2012 to reach a spicy £1.4bn. And the market analysts believe that this upward trend will continue, buoyed by a generation happy to eat global, and buy local.

So what’s driving the market? Discovery Foods senior brand manager Bhavika Thakrar says that globally-minded TV chefs and widespread travel have been crucial. “People are becoming more adventurous when trying different types of cuisine,” she says.

“This can be attributed to the rise in celebrity cookery programmes and foreign travel, which have helped to inspire people to experiment with more exotic dishes within their everyday meal repertoire.”

According to Geeta’s Foods marketing director Anita Samtani, local stores are well-placed to pick up shoppers who want to swap expensive takeaways for thrifty home-cooked dishes.

“Kantar World Panel found that 60% of shoppers do not know at 4pm what they will have for tea that night,” she says. “When they go into a convenience store they are seeking a combination of inspiration and convenience, and that mix goes hand-in-hand with world food.”

Retailer’s view

“In world food we have curry pastes such as Patak’s and Sharwoods. We don’t sell loads, just enough to warrant having them there on the shelves. If we didn’t do them we’d definitely miss out when people came in looking for pastes on their way home. The jars are good value. People can use what they need and save the rest in the fridge until later.

“What we do really well on is our Cook range of frozen meals and we do a lot of red thai curries. I think customers who choose a restaurant takeaway over coming to my shop for a Cook meal are mad! They sell because they taste as good, if not better, than the takeaways.

“Our chilled samosas do well, too. People tend to pick them up instead of a sandwich. In fact, we do loads of sandwiches from our deli counter - I’d say that chicken tikka masala is the best-selling filling. When I was just starting work in the 80s, you didn’t get these kinds of flavours - but there’s so much variety now - and people really like the different tastes.”

David Heritage, Barns Green Village Stores, West Sussex

At the Olympics last year the UK did very well in the medal stakes, but according to Mintel it is China that takes gold as Britain’s best-loved ethnic food category for value sales.

“The ambient Oriental food category is primarily composed of Chinese and Thai cuisine products,” explains Blue Dragon global marketing manager Alain Chua. “It’s currently worth £200.8m and is growing at a rate of 2.4% year on year.”

As market leader, Blue Dragon is seeking to consolidate its position by bringing the ‘restaurant experience’ home to consumers. Its latest launch is Restaurant Special Stir Fry Sauces, featuring yellow bean & cashew and kung po, available at a purse-friendly 99p price point.

Also bringing restaurant cooking know-how home is Amoy, with its range of sticky glazes designed to move Asian food on from the usual home-made stir-fry.

You can now sell specifically created wine to complement world food, too. Spice Trail wines are blended with Asian cuisine in mind, in a range consisting of a smooth red cabernet, pinot noir rosé and a crisp white pinot grigio.

Grains of truth

So ingrained are they in the average Brits’ diet, it can be a stretch to remember that rice and pasta are not native to the UK and can be classed as world foods. These carbohydrate accompaniments have always been a key component of world food. Now, thanks to an emphasis on health and quality, the carbs are really coming into their own.

Take The Real Basmati Company, for example, which is intent on taking the white stuff upmarket, courtesy of rice sourced direct from single-estate farms and which has been sun-dried and aged for more than 12 months.

Kohinoor Rice also chimes with this focus on provenance, with basmati rice selected from the Himalayas and given minimum processing for maximum authenticity.

This passion for premium is shared by Graham Breed, convenience channel marketing director for Napolina. He says: “The long-term outlook for the pasta category is good, despite marginal volume declines over the past year.

“There’s real opportunity at the premium end of the category, which now accounts for 15% of value sales. Independents need to work together to build on the momentum that’s already been created behind premium pasta and sauces.”

Of course, customers are always looking for a bargain, and Breed says that developing a pricemarked range is an essential part of the company’s convenience strategy.

“As the number-one brand in pasta, we have invested in the convenience sector by launching pricemarked packs within our pasta range,” he adds. “To drive sales in the category we have launched marked packs of £1.09 spaghetti and £1 penne, fusilli, conchiglie and farfalle pasta shapes.”

While Indian takes silver in terms of value sales, it still accounts for 49% of world food purchases. Jeff Hodgson, head of brand at Patak’s, isn’t surprised. “The ambient Indian category has performed well over the past year and is worth £199m,” he says.

“Patak’s is the number-one brand in the category, with a value share of 27.3%, which can be attributed to the brand’s broad product range.”

As far as trends go, the Indian category is still all about spice and heat. Patak’s even launched a branded phal curry back in 2011 - considered by connoisseurs as strictly for the fire-eaters.

“The trend has been towards hotter flavours,” concurs Geeta’s Foods’ Samtani. “Madras was the fastest growing last year. The ‘chilli culture’ continues and we have seen a huge growth in sales for our mango & chilli chutney, which has achieved national distribution in less than two years.”

All the experts point out that Indian is great for boosting basket spend through meal accompaniments such as samosas or bhajis. And the freezer cabinet can be a good way to buy into this sector.

“World foods have developed into a category in their own right within frozen foods,” advises Daloon Foods managing director Geoff Burgess. “Although not universally present in all store formats, its presence is often dictated by the need to fulfil demand from multicultural communities. Additionally, many of the more ‘mainstream’ world food products can also be seen in the general party food and ready meal categories.”

Ones to watch

Kickin’ ketchup

Adding a chilli kick to everyday condiments is definitely a trend to look out for - and Heinz has got in on the act with its new tomato ketchup spiked with Mexican chilli. Mexican is now one of Britain’s favourite flavours so this is a good option for any customer seeking to spice up their life - or their food at least.

rrp: £1.09

tel: 020 8573 7757

Cooler shaker

Convenient seasoning products make the perfect ‘gateway food’ to ever more exotic flavours in the world food category. So think of Colman’s Chicken Nuggets Original season-in-a-bag selection as the start of a global journey for shoppers who want to take the first step into a spicier cooking experience.

rrp: £1.49

tel: 0800 136 959

It takes two

Today two-person households are a growing category - a fact that authentic curry specialist Patak’s has caught on to with its new curry sauces created for two people. Served in a 285g jar, the product offers enough flavour to get a curry dinner well and truly covered without having lots left over.

rrp: £1.39

tel: 01727 815850

Wave aloe

Grace Aloe offers a hit of nutrients served up in a typically authentic Caribbean recipe. Ideal for washing down world food whether you’re chilling around the barbecue soaking up rays, or freezing in your kitchen watching the rain pour down outside. The drink is naturally high in vitamin C and calcium.

rrp: 99p

tel: 01707 326 555

The big freeze

Frozen ethnic snacks are a handy way to offer the category to cash-strapped consumers who want the taste of a Chinese or Indian takeaway, but without the expense. With this in mind, Daloon offers a full range of frozen world food treats such as mini spring rolls featuring a duck or vegetable filling.

rrp: from £1.29

tel: 01636 701000

To meet demand for the growing Indian frozen snack market (up over a quarter from 2010 to 2012, according to Kantar), Daloon supplies a selection of samosas and onion bhajis aimed at Big Night In shoppers.

Future global giants

With Oriental and Indian the big news now, who are future superstars in world food?

Mintel says that Mexican is a strong contender, with Tex-Mex the fastest-growing main ethnic cuisine. Brands such as Discovery have helped grow the category through convenient Mexican Meal Kits that give consumers easy access to south-of-the-border spiciness.

“Discovery is leading the way in terms of educating the consumer and has broken down the misconception that all Mexican food is hot and spicy by introducing a wide range of separates in varying degrees of heat and spice,” says Thakrar.

Caribbean food is another cuisine set to cause a stir, according to Nyree Chambers, marketing manager at Jamaican-owned Grace Foods. She says that the brand has two target markets: UK-based Caribbean shoppers and mainstream consumers looking for exciting new tastes.

“For the past 10 years we’ve been told that Caribbean is becoming trendy, and I really believe that the time is now. We’ve seen Innocent and McCain bring out Caribbean-style products, and I think that’s a good thing - it grows the category for everyone,” she says.

Retailers should also note that Caribbean cuisine chimes particularly well with summer eating. “We offer a variety of barbecue-relevant products including jerk BBQ sauce and jerk seasonings, as well as soft drinks such as ginger beer,” says Tropical Sun Foods brand manager Jag Singh.

And who knows? After last year’s summer washout, the contents of your world food section might be the only thing packing heat in the season to come.