NOVEMBER DIGITAL EDITION – The Punch & Judy show – Sterling vs Euro sparks supplier price stand off

Welcome to the November issue of The Grocery Trader, the monthly title for Britain’s multiple grocers. In America they’ve had Donald v Hillary to keep them entertained. Here, we’ve been enthralled with our own Punch and Judy-style dust up between two of our biggest grocery giants, Unilever and Tesco, with newspaper headlines screaming about Marmite disappearing from Tesco’s shelves. The row was sparked by Unilever wanting to raise their wholesale prices to compensate for the pound’s slide in value thanks to Brexit. It all got a bit Shakespearean, with Dave Lewis, Tesco CEO, taking arms against his former Unilever brothers. All’s well that ends well – for now anyway…

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In our features we look at Table Talk – sauces and condiments – and The Lite Stuff, taking in Low, No, Free From alternatives. Many products in both categories are either imported or made here with imported ingredients. Following the Tesco-Unilever dispute, presumably we’ll soon see price rises across the board from other suppliers, hopefully agreed in more amicable settlements.

It will be interesting to see if Brexit makes us more insular in our sauce habits, prompting a decline in the number of imported dressings and sauces on our shelves.

Meanwhile as our Lite Stuff feature argues, the popular perception of products with low, no or reduced contents of particular ingredients used to be that these were pale imitations of the full blooded version and tasted inferior to the real thing. This idea has gradually been replaced in the public consciousness by the belief that we should all watch our intake of naughties, along with a commitment to regular exercise. And many of us, including skinnies, now consume lite versions wherever possible.

Also in this issue we have our quarterly Back of Store feature. Long before we gained notoriety in Europe because of the Brexit vote, Britain was famous on the Continent because we can’t cope with our winter weather, unlike our haughty neighbours. When the slightest slurry of snow falls here, as we know everything traditionally grinds to a halt, even though the grocery supply chain usually manages to pick up again quickly. The disruption is of course highly entertaining for our Northern European friends, but not so funny for us. In recent months, home delivery operations like Amazon have been driving the UK major multiple grocers to improve their performance and achieve guaranteed delivery at extremely short notice. Given our historic poor performance in whiteouts, the pressure will be on Amazon and their grocery partners this winter to sustain their one-hour promises when the snows fall, as inevitably they will.

Have a good month and watch the weather forecast!

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