TURNING LEAVES Grocery industry in a season of change

charles-new-greyWelcome to the October issue of The Grocery Trader. As the leaves turn for autumn, there’s a new energy out there in the food business. In this issue we have news from Pladis, the UK’s leading manufacturer of biscuits and cakes, who have unveiled the next phase of their development strategy and Kepak, makers of Rustlers, the UK’s best-selling micro snack, who have revealed bold new plans to grow the micro snacking category over the next four years.

At the end of 2014 the Turkish industrial group Yildiz Holding bought United Biscuits, bringing relief after a period of uncertainty to this pillar of the UK food industry. Despite its $12 billion turnover and wide business interests, Yildiz is at heart a family-owned bakery headed by Murat Ulker, himself a baker, and has a lot in common with UB, with its long history of family bakers making great products. In his presentation John Eggleton, UK MD of Pladis, spoke about how being a family business creates a different feeling among the people there.

Micro snacking is a relatively new category, compared to biscuits, but the people in it are just as passionate. Adrian Lawler, Kepak Convenience Foods’ Business & Development Director and Simon Walker, CEO, have both been involved with Rustlers since its start in the early 2000s, with Adrian joining as a fresh-faced graduate and rising as this part of the Kepak meat business grew.

As reported in our news pages the Speciality & Fine Food Fair has just closed its doors on the seventeenth edition, showcasing the latest crop of food and drink entrepreneurs targeting the wider grocery retail industry, from farm shops and delis to supermarkets. Walking round the stands, the exhibitors varied immensely in their offering, scale of operations and views of the multiple grocers. In case you thought you could forget about shows for the moment, it’s time to start looking ahead to IFE2017, opening on 19 March.

Gluten-free foods are a big thing in grocery these days, but devotees can now enjoy gluten-free beer as well. Following strong ales in the restaurant sector, Indian-based Viking Ventures has started shipping its 4.8% ABV Goa Premium Beer to the UK off-trade. You read it here…

Finally, in our Quote Unquote section we hear from Simon Heath, UK Sales lead at S4RB, who says he takes inspiration from the track records of CEOs who started at the bottom and worked their way up. Pladis are taking on eight undergraduate sales interns in their field sales force, with the best three being offered jobs in marketing at the end. So we could well be profiling some of them in future issues. Have a good month.