Food & Drink Expo

Inspiration was everywhere at the NEC this week as the Food & Drink Expo, Farm Shop & Deli Show, National Convenience Show, Foodex and the ACS Summit set up shop in the exhibition centre. So what are the latest product trends making their way into the market? Here are the freshest ideas independent retailers should have on their radars.

  • Craft is king when it comes to booze right now and no spirit is more hip than gin. Connoisseurs of the tipple were spoiled for choice at the shows, but purists may have been disappointed to find many of those on display were of the flavoured variety. Pinkster, for example, is an artisan gin infused with raspberry, while Two Birds offered a modern twist with a punchier Cocktail Gin. In vodka, things got even sweeter as Two Birds unveiled a Salted Caramel Vodka – though this paled in comparison to V Gallery’s Marshmallow Vodka. The purists may be appalled but there’s no doubt this would be great in a cocktail.
  • Brits like to get saucy. Calm down, we’re talking chutneys, not hanky panky. One could barely turn a corner at Food & Drink Expo without running into another condiment, from The Foraging Fox’s hot beetroot ketchup to Rubies in the Rubble, which rescues unwanted or ugly fruit & veg for its goodies. Brands might find growth difficult to find for bog-standard ketchups, but for those doing something more innovative things could get even saucier this year.
  • The line between soft drinks and bottled water is blurring. As the war on sugar erodes sugary soft drink sales, producers are looking for pure and innovative ways to add some pep, promote themselves as healthy and deliver the sweet kick consumers have grown used to. While the big boys play with stevia, the smaller players are seeking alternative sweetening agents. Honey is the sweetener of choice for Just Bee, while the feminine Rose Diamond chooses the extract of freshly picked roses. That’s pretty sweet.
  • When a customer enters a local store they can pick up a latte, buy a fresh doughnut and shop for their groceries – but are they having fun? During the ACS Summit Ideas Wall, commercial director Paul Chamberlain pointed out how entertaining shoppers with small design touches leads to better engagement. For example, Roli Ranger has a Londis corner shop so aesthetically pleasing it would make a Shoreditch organic espresso bar jealous. Among the exposed brick in the Ascot Sunninghill store, there are even lampshades made out of bowler hats. This touch highlights the community race day traditions just as much as it makes customers crack a smile. But it doesn’t take a £70k refit to play along: Spar Chellow Heights retailer Rocky Leach is all over store monkey business with a cheerful sign that says his bananas are cheap as chimps.
  • Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain is furious with convenience retailers. That’s right, during the National Convenience Show the mum from Luton claimed c-stores almost never stocked her two baking essentials – greaseproof paper and unsalted butter. It is just as important to cater to the baking purists as those partial to a pre-mixed cake box and glittery sprinkles, she says. It is set to be another year of cake-making madness when Bake Off returns to screens again this summer: don’t be the retailer who lets Nadiya down.
  • Are security guards the accidental unfriendly face of your business? Often the stern figure at the door is the first and last impression a customer has of their shopping experience, and My Local CEO Mike Greene is not a fan. “They’re miserable as sin and menacing. They don’t really help security and they probably scare more shoppers off,” he says. “It’s often better to have another service assistant or member of your team on the door than it is to have someone on security.” To cheer up the remaining mandatory security guards at My Local, Greene makes sure they feel part of the team and trains them to become professional greeters.