DECEMBER DIGITAL EDITION – Eat, Drink and be merry UK grocery industry shines through global storms

Welcome to the December issue of The Grocery Trader and season’s greetings to all our readers. As we near the end of an extraordinary twelve months, in this issue we have our Review of The Year, looking back at developments in the grocery market, with reports from key suppliers and industry experts. Whatever happens in our uncertain world, people still like to eat, drink and enjoy life to the full and the grocery industry has an outstanding history of coming up with the goods to help them do just that.

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Also in this issue, we have our Lunchtime feature. Things might be tough in some quarters but our appetite for food and drink for midday meals isn’t going away any time soon and the array of products available is vast. To borrow from ‘Trainspotting’, choose a sandwich. Choose a microwaveable hot snack. Choose a super food treat. Choose cheese and crackers. Most of us like to take a break and grab a bite in the middle of the working day, making lunchtime a golden opportunity for food retailers of all kinds.

Going back to our Review of The Year, in the wider world 2016 has been a real bruiser, with all of us affected by the Brexit vote in June and the recent shock of Donald Trump winning the US election. The effects of both have yet to be seen. Looking back at the year in our industry, online shopping has been with us since the Millennium, but Amazon Fresh’s arrival here in May has upped the pressure on everyone to get slicker and speedier at delivering the goods. Speaking of US-owned mega-retailers, the UK is Walmart’s only global market not currently growing. As a contributing factor, unlike other supermarkets Asda has not yet got into convenience format stores and is now our worst performing supermarket and no longer our cheapest grocer.

Global suppliers and UK subsidiaries of foreign companies importing goods here have always had to juggle with currencies, but in recent years that’s been made worse by economic problems in various European countries. Brexit has added to the gloom, but Tesco and Sainsbury have lost no time in warning global suppliers not to ‘artificially’ inflate prices because of the falling pound.

On the products front the Chancellor’s announcement of the sugar tax in the March budget threw the UK soft drinks industry into a whirl, with the leading players quick to assert that they were ahead of the game in reducing their sugar contents. In May the EU Tobacco Products Directive brought in new rules concerning tobacco products, herbal products for smoking and electronic cigarettes, which will have an ongoing effect on sales of these items, already bound by layers of regulation and now further restricted.

Merry Christmas to everyone and we’ll see you in January. Have a good one!

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