Paul Hargreaves is the chief executive of Cotswold Fayre a specialist fine food wholesaler.

“Reassuringly expensive”

If you resided in the United Kingdom between the years of 1982 and 2007, you will know the phrase “reassuringly expensive” and will instantly associate it with Stella Artois, the Belgian lager beer. With its clean, white can and ornate crest, it looks at home with the moniker of an expensive lager, and has always tried to live up to that image. For a strapline to work for that long, it must have achieved something. The campaign was dropped in 2007 and the word “Stella” missed out of their advertising completely as the brand tried to shed its “wife-beater” image. Ironically it is now one of the cheapest lagers in the UK!

I have just come back from the Speciality Food Show in Harrogate, at which I noticed, and was given samples of some products that may describe themselves as “reassuringly expensive”. The brand owners wouldn’t have said that, of course, but the first warning sign would be that their products are listed in Harrods or Fortnum & Mason. This would always prompt me to ask what the retail price is expected to be in a normal shop. Yes, there is a place for unique and extraordinary products selling at high prices, but the market for products like this is very, very small and it is very unlikely that you are going to have a business turning over more than a few £100,000 with products like this.

To have a decent speciality food business your products need to be able to sell in a deli in Newcastle as well as a food hall in London with realistic retail margins and prices in both. I have no problem at all with “reassuringly expensive” but I do have a problem with “preposterously pricey”. I’m not sure this 30g tin of matcha on my desk is going to make the cut at a £21 retail price!

I am now on holiday for a couple of weeks, so unlikely to be heard from next week, but just in case you missed me, here is a podcast I made you can listen to. It's around 30 minutes about what I believe business is all about. Enjoy!

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