Welcome to the November/December issue of Grocery Trader. We’re nearing the end of an eventful year for the grocery business. Starting at the top, Tesco’s involvement in Poland and Thailand has cost them dear, but the dust has settled on the Tesco/Booker deal and the business is doing well, the latest exciting innovations being the Jack’s discount stores.
We’re still awaiting the CMA’s verdict on the Sainsbury’s/Asda merger. Concerns have been voiced that suppliers will get a raw deal from the new company, but retailers have always driven a hard bargain and suppliers cope.
Some people are getting worried about stock shortages after Brexit. Sainsbury’s Group Chief Exec Mike Coupe has been saying their distribution centres carry roughly a week’s stock of fresh produce, so it’s imperative for the government to reach a settlement.
Meanwhile other people have been pointing out on Radio 4 and elsewhere that the UK grocery trade usually only has a week’s stock cover, and things don’t grind to a halt.
Looking at consumer trends this year has seen healthy living become the focus for many consumers. In the process vegans have gone from relative obscurity to front of mind, with a Plant-Based Week featuring on ‘Bake Off’ and the UK supermarkets embracing the trend with a passion.
Our growing desire for healthy living is transforming the way we live and is one of the biggest motivators for food and drink selection, particularly younger consumers. Health is also the driver behind smokers switching from cigarettes to vaping.
We interview Dan Thomson, UK MD of JUUL Labs, who have captured 74% of the US ecigarette market in three years and are on a mission to professionalise the vaping sector. They are off to a strong start, having just signed a deal to supply Sainsbury’s.
The rise of craft beer is another sign of the healthy trend’s influence. We talk to Gareth Cooke, Grocery Director at Carling brewer Molson Coors, whose Emerging Markets & Craft Beer division is showing strong growth.
As our Healthy Living feature reminds us, January is the peak time for healthy lifestyle choices, but before that, these preferences are certainly going to influence many people’s Christmas consumption. Healthy living and ‘Better For You’ is also to the fore in our features on Spreadables, Snacking Petcare and Petcare, where estimates are that sales of ‘natural’ petfood brands will hit £300m by 2020.
Finally, as proof that this business goes on giving, Asda and Costco are official partners to BBC Children in Need 2018. And the whole industry has helped make this a fantastic year for GroceryAid, with the recent Sporting Lunch on 2nd November raising a record £515k. Merry Christmas!