Friday, December 7, 2007

Friday Fishwrap

Week-ending news, analysis and insight
Retail Innovation: British grocer Waitrose opens second 'premium' store
Upscale British grocer Waitrose opened the second store in its new "premium" store format last week in North London. The new store follows on the heels of the first "premium" store, which opened in June 2007 in Central London, and has been deemed a success by the growing and innovative grocer.
Key to Waitrose's "premium" store concept and format is the tailoring of each store to the culinary taste's and shopping habits of customers in the store's local neighborhood. It's a form of "hyper local" merchandising by Waitrose, which is considered to be Britain's leading upscale specialty grocer.

The new North London store, located on Finchley Road, follows this localization concept established by the prototype Central London "premium" store. To accommodate all its premium features and offers, Waitrose expanded the formerly 9,000 square foot North London store to 28,000 square feet, by taking over and renovating a former retail store located next to the market.
Among the new premium features the grocer has added to the store include what is calls The Time of Day Shop. At the shop, customers can order prepared foods depending on what time of day it is. In the morning for breakfast shoppers can order granola, smoothies, muesli, fresh fruit and juices. For lunch, the shop features fresh, prepared soups and an extensive selection of made-to-order sandwiches. For dinnertime, customers can choose from a menu of ready-to-eat meals, entrees and side dishes.

The store's butcher shop features a bounty of fresh cuts of meat and lots of poultry. The extensive selection includes local dry-aged and organic Angus beef, local Berkshire free-range pork, and local organic and free-range birds.

There's also a fresh fish and seafood department that offers over 70 varieties of fresh-caught fish and other delights from the sea and the (fish) farm. Included are sustainable-farmed fish varieties and "cruelty-free" caught versions of wild fish and seafood.

In the center of the store is what Waitrose says is its "premium" format's showpiece, a grouping of patisserie, cheese and charcuterie counters that form a gourmet island right in the middle of the store. This "gourmet island" features the best quality cheeses, meats and baked goods. Local delights are mingles with the best from around the globe.

As part of it's "premium" format, the store (as does the Central London market) merchandises an expanded (and even more high-end) selection of specialty and gourmet groceries. Since all Waitrose stores carry more specialty, gourmet, ethnic, natural and organic packaged goods than the average supermarket in Britain, this means the premium stores are jam-packed with the specialty goods.

The store also carries this expanded theme in the specialty and natural foods categories over to it's produce department, where the store offers expanded selections of fresh organic, specialty and exotic fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Upscale, premium wines, spirits and beers also are given center stage in the "premium" stores adult beverage department. In particular, the wine selection is extensive and impressive.

The "premium" store format is Waitrose's attempt to take it's upscale everyday merchandising philosophy up further a notch into an even more culinary focus. It's also an attempt to drill-down even further on a neighborhood level and offer custom-tailored items, along with its premium selection, based on the particular tastes of local shoppers.

The launching of the premium format was prompted in part by the entry into London by U.S. grocer Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods opened it's first European store in London about six months ago. Waitrose is Britain's leader in specialty and natural foods merchandising and has said it doesn't plan to cede sales in any form to Whole Foods. The "premium" store format is in part a demonstration of that commitment by the upscale British grocer.

Friday Fishwrap Wrap-up
What others were writing about this week

Holiday Ham Promotion From Hell: Someone at Balducci's famed Greenwich Village, NY gourmet grocery store either made a monumental promotional merchandising mistake, or was stretching for some retail humor last Saturday, when they labeled a boneless spiral ham in the store's meat case as "Delicious for Hanukkah." (See pic below, left.)

The colorful red, white and blue sign, labeled with bold black letters, was spotted by Manhattan novelist Nancy Kay Shapiro, who took a picture of the ham and the sign and gave a copy to the New York Daily News, who reported on the incident today.

Shapiro, who refers to herself as an unobservant Jew, told the Daily News she first saw the sign on the ham in the store on Saturday. She returned on Sunday with her camera. The sign was still on the ham she said, so she snapped a few pictures. Rather than tell the store management about the promotional mix-up--observant Jews generally don't eat pork for those who don't know--she posted the pics on her personal blog.
"I just thought it was funny," Shapiro told the Daily News. "I wasn't offended in any way. I just thought, here's somebody who knows nothing about what Jews eat.'

Somebody must have let Balducci's in on what must be the worst kept secret in food history because Shapiro said when she returned to the store to do some shopping that following Tuesday night, the sign was gone. It was Hanakkah that Tuesday night. (read the New York Daily News story here.)

More Ethnic Marketing Failures: Wal-Mart, the world's largest corporation and international retailer, seems to have found itself in one country where it isn't having success--South Korea. At a recent symposium at South Dakota State University, South Korean exchange professor Dr. Kye-Song Chung told the audience Wal-Mart's lack of current success in the Asian country is largely do to it's failure to adapt it's stores' to South Korea's local custom's and practices, according to a report in The Collegian, the student-run campus newspaper. (Read The Collegian story here.)

Speaking of South Korea, and Koreans: Korean bakeries are booming--and raking in dough--in Atlanta, Georgia, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Not only are these growing, single-format ethnic bakeries drawing Korean immigrants by the throngs, they're also becoming increasingly popular with shoppers of all ethnic backgrounds.
Atlanta has the third-fastest growing Asian population in the U.S. The Korean-owned bakeries are a fusion of European-style breads, cookies and cakes, with Korean ingredients like sweet rice and red bean paste. They also have French and Germanic sounding names like Hansel & Gretel and Cafe Mozart, giving them a multicultural flair. (Read the story here.)

U.S. Consumers Trust Grocers, Activists Far More Than Government: The old saying, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you," is often used as a joke to warn of the evils of believing anything a government official tells you, or offers to help you with. In the case of food information, it seems consumers are taking that joke to heart, according to a just released study on who U.S. consumers believe most about food, nutrition and related information.

According to the survey, conducted by GFK Roper Public Affairs for a group of PR and communications firms, the majority of consumers (64%) in the national poll said they trust activist groups the most when it comes to getting the facts and information about food choices, according to a report in Progressive Grocer Magazine. Further, they said these groups have consumers' best interests in mind when giving that information to them.

The survey respondents ranked retail grocers a close second. Sixty-two percent said they trust grocers for their food choice and related information. Food manufacturers ranked third at 53%, followed by government, in fourth place. Only 47% said they trusted the U.S. government as a source for food choice information. The U.S. government should thank the fast food industry, as it was the only institution or business the government beat in the survey. Only 26% of the consumers polled said they trust fast food companies for food choice information. (You can read the Progressive Grocer story here.)

More About Consumers: Flavor Food Trends: Speaking of the consumer, a new report from Datamonitor says consumers are polarized between two new food trends: exotic flavors and retro flavors, those foods from their past that evoke feelings of comfort and simpler times.

The trend towards exotic tastes--and foods and beverages--is well known to those of us who analyze or work in the industry. It's what's fueling the double-digit sales growth of ethnic foods and beverages and "exotic" products like superfruits, new-age beverages and other foods and beverages that tickle the palate.

Datamonitor says the two trends--exotic and retro seem to be polar opposites. However, they do have hedonism in common the report says. A summary of the research published in suggests marketers can use the knowledge of these two trends to increase sales. One example is the use of "scent story" marketing to engage consumers on a sensory level and encourage emotional buying. (make your food or product smell like Mom's meat loaf, and her kitchen at home, and consumers will beat a path to your brand.)

Both exotic flavors and retro flavors lend themselves to "experiential" marketing in many other ways as well. With the exotic, its that popping on your taste buds--the taste sensation. With retro, it's that emotional connection and comfort feeling. (You can read the survey summary here.)

Connecticut Whole Foods' Team Leader is A Green Leader: There's an old saying in retail that "If it doesn't happen at store level, it won't happen at all." We agree. And in the case of green or environmental principles, philosophies and practices for retail chain's, the store-level saying is even more true.

Whole Foods Market, West Hartford, Conn. The handmade sign on the store's door is a store-level touch by Tom Neal and his retail team.
Lucky for Whole Foods Market, Inc. they have Tom Neal as store team leader at the grocer's West Hartford, Conn. store.. When it comes to green principles and practice's, Neal is a true believer, and motivator, according to a story in the Hartford Courant. Neal and his store department managers carryout Whole Foods' green principals with gusto. And when it comes to environmental retailing, they ass their own store-level touches at their West Hartford store. Neal and company believe a green shopper is a happy shopper, and do their best to prove it daily. (You can read the Hartford Courant story here.)

Product Marketing Report
New product-line of the week: Crummy Brothers Cookies

There's nothing crummy about Crummy Brothers Cookies. The three Crummy Brothers (there real last name), Todd, Brain and Mark, have produced a line of gourmet cookies which incorporate two of the fastest growing food trends: organic ingredients combined with premium taste.

The line of indulgent cookies, made with Dagoba premium organic chocolate, include: Original (chocolate chip with a high chip count), Orange Blossom (organic chocolate and orange), Lemon Ginger (with dark chocolate chocolate chips from Costa Rica), and Chocolate (an infusion of pure organic cocoa along with organic milk and dark chocolate chips.)

Each of the Crummy Brothers has his specialty when it comes to making premium tasting cookies. Todd is a culinary perfectionist. He's the brother who can nuance a cookie recipe to perfection--and insists on organic ingredients. Brian is the chocolate chip expert. He demands only the best organic chips for the cookies which bare the family name. And Mark says he's on a cookie mission--to save the world from syrupy-sweet cookies.

Together, the three brothers have created a line of organic, gourmet cookies which are tempting the the sweet tooth's of cookie lovers throughout the U.S. Word is, seldom is there ever a "crumb" left. The cookie line is currently being slotted in all of the Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S., and also is available in select specialty stores. and online at the Crummy Brother's website.

The indulgent organic cookies don't come cheap--but then quality foods that combine organic and premium ingredients into a gourmet-quality product seldom do. Less can be more--and better. Crummy Brothers cookies sell for about $5.99 for a box of six.

The brothers are expanding distribution rapidly as well as working on some new flavors for introduction in 2008. Among the new varieties in development include: Chai Town (made with organic Chai), Peppermint Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and German Chocolate Chip. All are organic of course.

One of the Crummy Brother's fans is celebrity chef Rachael Ray, who featured the Orange Blossom Chocolate Chip cookie as the "Snack of the Day" recently on her Food Network show

The brothers Crummy are tapping into three of the fastest-growing food trends in the U.S., and elsewhere. These trends are organic, premium quality taste, and indulgence. By combining all three of these hot-button food trends into a product, and creating a cookie that tastes great, the brothers should find some sweet success--as long as they can keep prices as reasonable as possible, gain distribution, and continue their fun-loving approach to marketing the brand.

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