Ethnic marketing isn’t a language the grocery trade truly understands

Ethnic food is constantly evolving and so are the shopping habits of both mainstream and ethnic consumers. Ethnic minorities now make up 14% of the UK’s population and have a combined disposable income of £300 billion per year. There is an enormous diversity of cultures in the UK. Ethnic minorities are the fastest growing sector and in 15 years are projected to represent 50% of the urban population. They are likely to be upwardly mobile and better educated than the indigenous population, with South Asians being the fastest growing middle class and now account for ½ of all new UK millionaires. So why are these people still largely ignored by the grocery trade? It seems the trend for poor marketing continues.

chazBritain’s insatiable appetite for ethnic cuisine is unabated and the grocery trade is scrambling to keep ahead and find new and wonderful ways to draw us to the next big thing, whilst satisfying the demand from the UK’s growing ethnic communities. World Food continues to be as hot as a scotch bonnet chilli, whether it’s the trend for street food, soul food, raw ingredients or Turkish to Lebanese. Let’s face it World Food is massive and reaches every corner of British life. Undoubtedly Tesco and Asda were the first to get on board but others have followed suit. Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose now all have a World Food offering with varied levels of success. Aldi, Lidl and the Co-op will surely follow. This is for no other reason than the grocery trade know this burgeoning market can’t be ignored, but whether they’re going to stay ahead is a question of how well they market their offering.

The major multiples and specialist independents often achieve double digit growth with World Foods and are keen to see it continue. Drawing in mainstream shoppers is crucial but increasingly important are the ethnic communities that these stores set out to serve. How easy is it going to be for mainstream multiples with the advent of the all singing, all dancing ethnic supermarkets? These new enterprises offer great value, a superb selection of fresh ingredients; ample parking, bespoke merchandising and the opportunity to offer the entire weekly shop under one roof. Stores such as Pak Supermarkets and Yours service the Asian, Turkish, African, Caribbean, Eastern European communities as well as mainstream foodies who are looking to truly explore greater authenticity in World Food. These ethnic supermarkets pose a problem for mainstream supermarkets as well as the ethnic independents. Moving forward they can outdo the competition on price as well as the range of products on offer, whilst offering quality and a shopping experience that appeals and allow people to inspect and select their fresh produce and buy in the quantities they want. The multiple mainstream supermarkets may have missed a bit of a trick here by not opening their own smaller stores that cater for the ever-increasing ethnic market in the right conurbations. This could and would be a gold mine. Britain’s minority ethnic groups are not like the indigenous counterparts. Writing them off or doing token campaigns for religious festivals ignores the fact that they represent an increasing number of tomorrow’s adults. Dismissing them as hard to reach overlooks the fact they are more likely to live and study in certain places and there are specialist agencies like Hot Marketing that can help. So why the reticence to really take the plunge in any meaningful way? I remember writing to a CEO of a major multiple years back suggesting this and a trial in a prime site in one of Leicester’s ethnic areas. Subsequently Pak Supermarket opened near the site and is heaving with shoppers.

If the mainstream can’t compete on scale they need to compete on merchandising, price promotions and effective marketing. Most of the mainstream supermarkets only seem to dip their toe into ethnic marketing around key festivals and this is often done in a very mainstream fashion. This is despite 77% of Britain’s ethnic minorities saying that mainstream advertising has no relevance to them. In addition the merchandising is limited to a “World Food ceiling hanger” and then a few bus stop signs demarking food from different ethnicity to a greater or lesser degree. Hardly inspirational or attention grabbing!

Chloe Malik is Director of Hot Marketing, which specialises in targeting the UK’s ethnic minority communities’

Chloe Malik, Director

E: chloe.malik@hotmarketing.co.uk