Off to Harrogate
Posted by Paul Hargreaves on
I write this just before I drive up to Harrogate for the main speciality food show of the summer, which is mainly full of consumer shows not trade
This is the first time we have exhibited at the show, and I am looking forward to it, partly as our fastest geographical growth is in the North, and I am looking forward to meeting some of our new customers up there. Apparently I need to be breathing fire on Monday lunchtime as I am on the panel of the “Feed the Dragon” session.
I have been giving some thought this week to the future of the speciality food sector, partly prompted by a couple of interviews I have given on the subject over the last week. Further reflections may follow as I find holidays good for stepping back and getting more of an overview, so this time next week I will be doing just that, but my thoughts currently are turning to the huge influx of new products and innovation we have seen over the past few months.
This is in marked contrast to only a few years ago when I was bemoaning the lack of innovation and creativity in the sector. It is almost as if the economic downturn has brought all this creativity to the surface. So there is a lot to be applauded. However there are some issues with this that I would like to develop a little further here. First of all, it is only a low percentage of these new products being sent in to us where the brand owner are actually making the products themselves. Most are products that are being produced by third party manufacturers. There is nothing innately wrong with this, but personally I prefer to be talking to people that are actually making the food and drink themselves. With producer companies there is generally more integrity and certainly more control over supply chain. If, for example, we have a sudden spike in sales they can generally respond much quicker. There is also more provenance and more of a story, which gives our sales team more to talk about and creates more interest. Related to this we have recently had to de-list a brand called Hale & Hearty who used third party producers across a wide range of products, not that it will make much difference to our customers as we have been out of stock of most products this year, as Hale and Hearty seemed to be completely out of control of their supply chain, and to make matters worse, then wouldn’t return our phone calls or e-mails!
The second factor which is going to grow in importance over the next few years is the need to increase marketing spend. In the early years of my business around the turn of the century, there were relatively much fewer brands and therefore growing a brand in the sector was much easier. Brands that were around in these days are of a significant size now e.g. Belvoir Drinks, Olives et al. With the plethora of new brands coming through now, there is a need for significantly more marketing spend and activity to get new brands noticed. To be honest (and in some ways this is slightly sad) the amount of money available for marketing their brand will be an increasingly important factor in our decisions as to which ones to take on over the next few years. Simply making a great product in good packaging isn’t enough anymore. I wonder what I will find at Harrogate!