This week’s issue showcases the winners of The Grocer Gold Awards. And what a showcase! A celebration of outstanding achievement in this noble, huge and innovative industry, it is, at the same time, the most egalitarian and entrepreneurial set of results in the history of the event.
For all the pomp and ceremony of the event at the Guildhall in London, the judges showed little respect to the establishment. The top five walked away with slim pickings while the night belonged to smaller, often younger companies.
The obvious starting point has to be our new Grocer of the Year. Aldi would have been the easy choice. It’s won for the past two years. It’s still growing at a big lick. But in choosing Lidl, and for the first time, the judges recognised it is no longer the poor relation. It has come out from the shadows, developing a personality, and introducing a series of initiatives that are markedly its own. And in doing so it has accelerated its growth.
Star billing also has to go to BrewDog: its CEO James Watt was proclaimed the Entrepreneur of the Year, and the craft beer brand also triumphed in the SME Drink Brand of the Year. It can also count itself unlucky not to win Exporter of the Year, showing ingenuity in its overseas development.
It lost out in the export category to Joe & Seph’s - a remarkable gourmet popcorn brand that demonstrated the continued ingenuity and resolve of British entrepreneurs.
But among the exciting start-ups, you have to salute some astonishing turnarounds. None more so than Oddbins. It came out of administration four years ago a pale shadow of its former self. It’s not so much reinvented itself as rediscovered its DNA. For inspiring stories you also have to single out Trewithen, a processor that defied the car crash in dairy. And talking of dairy, hats off to Booths for its inspired Fair Milk initiative and its counter-intuitive expansion plans.
The last word has to go to Tesco, however. Being voted Favourite Supermarket demonstrates the enduring appeal of the supermarket format. And shows you write off Tesco at your peril.