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Britain’s appetite for travel-inspired flavours rocketed during the pandemic, but global tastes have long been gathering steam. “You only have to look at the nation’s favourite takeaways to realise that Britain has been inspired by global cuisines for quite some time,” said Jyoti Patel, CEO and founder of Red Rickshaw, the largest world ingredient supplier in the UK, and Feast Box, a world food recipe box. “With social media opening various windows into different cultures, people in Britain are now on the hunt for authentic flavours and high-quality ingredients that often cannot be found in their regular UK supermarkets.”
As well as introducing Brits to new flavours, global food offerings cater for customers with diverse backgrounds. Jyoti set up Red Rickshaw due to her own struggle to source authentic ingredients from beyond Britain’s borders.
Mariam Jimoh similarly created Oja, a London-based grocery delivery start-up specialising in produce from local ethnic grocery stores, to use food to connect people to their communities. “We find that not only are we providing a service that allows our customers to foster a community inside the kitchen, but we’re also servicing people who might be missing that connection back to their heritage or home country,” Mariam said. “Whether it’s an international student or a family who has just relocated, our customers are able to purchase products that provide a direct link back to a particular country.”
Oja currently provides African and Caribbean food and drink, but Mariam has plans to expand this even further. “Almost every day we get messages from our customers saying, ‘I used to eat this fruit when I was young, and I can’t wait to share it with my child’ or ‘I’ve found myself digging into old family recipes’ and it really shows the power of food in fostering a sense of community,” Mariam told Speciality Food.
While Oja, like Red Rickshaw, grew out of a desire to make far-flung ingredients more accessible, their appeal is broad. “By setting up Red Rickshaw and making my favourite ingredients more accessible across the UK,” Jyoti said, “I was able to share my appreciation of Asian cooking with the British public, who in turn, became intrigued on how to authentically use these unfamiliar ingredients in their cooking.”
As the desire to try out global recipes expands, the opportunity for indie retailers grows. According to Mintel’s UK World Cuisines Market Report 2021, world cuisines are perfectly placed to tap into the increased interested in cooking from scratch and through meal kits, which arose during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
The market researcher found that 62% of world cuisine eaters and buyers say they would like to see more at-home meal kits that teach a skill. The growing appetite for recipe boxes offers a solution for adventurous foodies who are tight on time in the evening, or for those unsure where to start with world flavours. “We believe that everyone should have the time to truly enjoy their evening meal, whilst learning something along the way is an added bonus,” Jyoti said. “It seems a shame to let a lack of convenience, inspiration or confidence in the kitchen hold you back from trying new things and enjoying delicious dishes.”
Online delivery options also offer customers a greater convenience when they need to pick up a few ingredients for a new recipe. Mariam told Speciality Food, “Right now, it seems like the [online] market has come out of nowhere, but this was always predicted to happen, it’s just happened a lot quicker than it was projected to!” Technology, Mariam believes, can provide solutions for the food and drink industry. For instance, she has thrown her support behind a programme via Samsung to give young people resources to solve problems related to sustainability, social inclusion, diversity and inclusion and education. “I think food can fit into all of these categories as it’s a universal experience everyone engages with. Whether it be providing education on the foods we eat, or in our case, diversifying the access to ingredients,” Mariam said.
It helps when your business has a clear unique selling point, too. “We stand out in the food delivery industry because what we’re doing is meeting a real need, giving communities access to ingredients that they currently can’t get with ease,” she said. “We think there is a lot of scope here for this trend to not only continue but to also grow as well.”
As demand for global food increases, fine food retailers will benefit from expanding their horizons beyond the UK and Europe to discover new delights for their customers to enjoy.