Meet the buyers…

David Simons
Fresh meat & fish buyer, Booths

Married father of three David has been with Booths for the past two years, having previously worked as a beef and lamb buyer for the Co-op. He says he enjoys the pace and variety of his current role, as well as being part of a family business with a rich history and big plans for the future. 

Richard Bourns Lidl buyer web

Richard Bourns
Head of department (buying), Lidl

Richard joined Lidl in 2009 as a graduate management trainee and is now responsible for fresh and frozen meat & poultry, and a number of other own label food categories. As a foodie, he loves rolling up his sleeves in the test kitchen, trying new products and looking at new ideas.

Will Barstow, Aldi

Will Barstow
Buying director, fresh meat, Aldi

Will joined Aldi UK in 2003 as a trainee area manager on the graduate scheme. He has worked on ambient groceries and alcohol before taking responsibility for fresh meat five years ago during which time he has helped to significantly broaden Aldi’s range. Will enjoys the variety and broad scope of the role.

This article is part of our 2016 meat, fish & poultry digital feature 

How would you sum up the past year? 

DS: It has been a great year. The success of the Booths Christmas Book (a compilation of recipes and ideas for creating the perfect ’Great Northern Christmas’) and meat specifically have been great highlights.

Booths’ Christmas range worked brilliantly for us this year, with some really exciting NPD. Christmas home delivery orders rose by 54%, and overall orders, including click & collect in-store orders, rose by 11%. Easter was also strong as Booths customers continue to look to us for key occasions. 

I’ve recently started buying fresh fish alongside fresh meat. It’s really exciting buying a new area and getting to deal with lots of new suppliers and products.

RB: Meat, fish and poultry has been hugely successful in a competitive market. Despite the challenges of a competitive retail market, Lidl has enjoyed incredibly strong category growth, driven by a high-quality range of fresh British meat and poultry.

WB: Every year within fresh meat is always so different with many challenges. The past 12 months have seen Aldi continue to gain market share within meat, fish and poultry by remaining firm in our long-term commitment to sourcing British and offering consistent high quality and unbeatable value. We were the only supermarket retailer to sell only British Lamb at Easter - a time where traditionally retailers rely significantly on cheaper New Zealand imports.

What trends are affecting the category?

RB: The provenance of fresh meat and poultry is key. We continue to champion high-quality fresh British meat and poultry, and this has been the cornerstone of our strong category growth.

DS: I am seeing continued growth in the ready to cook range and my steak sales remain strong. Gluten-free products remain popular with customers and this forms part of my current range developments. I have been very pleased by how our sausage and bacon sales have held up, despite the challenges this part of the marketplace has faced.

NPD in these areas - for example making all of our bacon from Yorkshire and a strong local twist in our sausage range - have been key factors here. We make all Booths sausages ourselves, using local ingredients like Hawkshead onion relish, Pure North cider & Booths Dewlay Lancashire cheese in our flavoured sausages.

What was the best launch from the past year?

RB: There has not been a huge amount of innovation over the past year. There has been more focus on range rationalisation and price, with innovation limited to seasonal offerings.

The price war in the marketplace is challenging, but gives Booths a great opportunity to focus on both the retail price of our core lines and also take the chance to communicate to our customers those special lines unique to Booths

How is the market being affected by the price war?

WB: Protein represents a significant part of the basket and customers are increasingly seeking out the best value offer. In doing so, we have seen them switch to Aldi as we remain consistent in our honesty, transparency and value offering within this category.

Deflation has hit many categories across UK retail and fresh meat has not been immune to this. Adding value to the customer offer through convenience, innovation and consistency in quality is key to ensuring meat, fish and poultry remains the key component within that weekly basket.

DS: We are very conscious of the prices we charge our customers, giving them good value for the high quality of meat they expect from us.

The price war in the marketplace is challenging, but gives Booths a great opportunity to focus on both the retail price of our core lines and also take the chance to communicate to our customers those special lines that are unique to Booths. For example, the Herdwick lambs that are owned by Booths and finished by a Cumbrian farmer called Ian Knight on our behalf. Our scallops are hand-dived in Scotland.

How are you looking to add value? 

RB: There is more focus on convenience - adding value to traditional cuts of meat through the addition of sauces or other ingredients to create everyday meal solutions. We have seen growth in this area, and I would expect further development within the category over time.

DS: Lines we sell in ready to cook and products that offer a dining-in solution for customers in place of eating out are performing well for us and provide opportunities for the future. The steaks with butters we sell in our very successful meal deals are an example from the past year.

Convenience is also becoming a key trend within this category; busy consumers no longer want to compromise on freshness and quality and so there are significant opportunities for meal ‘kits’

Booths barbecue sales continue to be strong. We are up both year on year and vs previous hot years. The premium burgers, including the Booths rump steak burgers (up 47.2% year on year) and the marinated chicken lines (up 58%), are really driving our summer sales.

WB: Consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious as they demand leaner and healthier meat options. We are now selling more turkey thigh mince than ever before and our most popular beef mince is now our 5% fat option; this signals a shift in customer requirements in fresh meat products.

Convenience is also becoming a key trend within this category; busy consumers no longer want to compromise on freshness and quality and so there are significant opportunities for meal ‘kits’ which allow meals to be cooked from scratch using quality unprocessed ingredients.

What’s the best way for a supplier to approach you with a new product?

RB: I value strong relationships with suppliers - I am always looking to hear from new and existing suppliers, with exciting new ideas. This exchange is vital to the development of new products and the success of the category. I am inundated with approaches via email, post and with samples sent direct to my office. If you have a good idea and think you could add value to my range, stand out by making a sound business case for consideration, and I will contact you to discuss further.

WB: We always welcome new products from our current and new suppliers. Brand new suppliers can contact us directly through our ‘New Supplier Hotline’, details of which can be found on our website, who we would then meet with and try the proposed product.

Our Fresh Meat Specialbuys are a fantastic opportunity for us to try new and exciting ideas for our customers and great way for us to introduce new products and new suppliers. For example, our Father’s Day Specialbuys saw us sell approximately 50,000 Specially Selected Wagyu steaks in two days.

Any golden rules when approached by a brand with NPD?

RB: Do your research. Make sure you know my range and understand my business.

Previous article - Revealed: Top meat health worry is animals on antibiotics

Next article - Creative juices: From glam canned ham to gravy trains