Welcome to The Grocery Trader’s December issue. It’s been a record year for food distribution experts Oakland International, who feature on our front cover and in our news pages. 2017 saw them win not one but two Queen’s Awards and a Corporate Social Responsibility Award in the Logistics Awards. CEO and Co- Founder Dean Attwell also found time this spring to trek to the North Pole for Cancer Research. In this issue, Oakland Invicta, Oakland’s contaminated load recovery operation, has created an AMNESTY checkpoint in Kent to check cargo before ultimate UK delivery. We look forward to seeing what 2018 brings for this dynamic company.
Another name we’ll be watching is USA Rice. Britain remains USA rice’s largest market for exports to the EU27: USA rice imports by value into the UK in 2016 totalled $16.2m.
It’s been a big year for Rustlers, the UK’s bestselling micro snacking brand, with its premium Rustlers Gourmet Burgers bringing Rustlers into the gourmet burger sector. As Adrian Lawlor, Kepak Convenience Foods’ Marketing and Business Development Director says in our interview, Rustlers are often bought instead of McDonalds at lunchtime, so stock them and grab some High Street lunch action. Look out for our Lunchtime feature in this issue too.
Congratulations to Walkers Salt & Vinegar, Smoky Bacon and Prawn Cocktail crisps, which came through the ‘Choose Me or Lose Me’ ballot with a clear vote, unlike our Prime Minister earlier this year.
As a momentous year for the UK grocery industry closes the Competition and Markets authority has finally approved Tesco’s takeover of Booker, with a “provisional unconditional clearance” of the deal and findings to be published in December. Richard Curry of commercial property consultancy Rapleys reckons the CMA approval of the merger will affect the judgement on the pending Co- Op/Nisa tie-up and expects increased activity from food retailers wanting to challenge Cstore operators like Costcutter and Spar. We shall see.
Leaving the Bookers project aside, Tesco had the fastest growing sales of the major supermarkets for eight months in a row, according to Nielsen data released as we went to press. During the 12 weeks to 4 November, Tesco sales increased 2.7% year-on-year, ahead of Sainsbury’s 2.1%.
Finally, with Christmas upon us, if you’re dreaming of healthy Christmas drinks sales, read the interview in our Drinks section with William Watkins, MD of Radnor Hills, whose Heartsease Farm Pressés offer a great alternative for designated drivers and others who want a premium, sophisticated offer as a substitute for alcoholic consumption. That said, you don’t have to cut out wine altogether to be healthy at Christmas. Sales of low-alcohol wine are also thriving, with UK supermarket sales of B by Black Tower, the world’s no. 1 best selling German wine brand, up 18.5% this year. Cheers!