chaz3When it comes to food and drink in multiple grocers, what does ‘Ethnic’ mean these days? We’re a much travelled, cosmopolitan bunch in 2011, so if you’re going by the book True British Food is probably limited to traditional fare like sausages, soups, pies, game, roasts and fish and chips.

The mainstream food manufacturers supply such things as spaghetti bolognaise, moussaka, pizza and Chicken Kiev. Yes, they were presented here decades ago as Exciting European Food and you can eat something like them in the countries the recipes come from – not to mention in restaurants and cafés all over the world – but the point is, by most people’s definition they’re not ‘ethnic,’ they’re mainstream. And where do you put all the American foods like burgers and Tex/Mex? Again, they’re all mainstream.

On the branded products front, the biggest UK success stories in the Ethnic Food & Drink industry have all crossed over from their respective ethnic community into the mainstream, as the UK population have become confident enough to enjoy these cuisines at home. These products can now be found in supermarkets as well, as they sell in sufficient quantities both to their particular ethnic community and to the wider population for the major multiples to recognise their importance.

These brands are in the Premiership of ethnic food and drink brands. Below them are a host of other products at different stages in the transition from ‘incoming ethnic’ to mainstream crossover. And all represent a major profit opportunity for Britain’s multiple grocers, who are well placed to capitalise on the continuing growth in ethnic food and drink.

A brief review of British history will highlight the layers of immigration from Ireland, Europe and beyond over the last two centuries. Every incoming population has brought its share of enterprising merchants keen to supply their community with food either imported from home or made here to authentic recipes or in keeping with traditions.

Wing Yip, Britain’s leading Oriental grocer, is the classic example of an ethnic wholesale business established here for a long time and has stuck to doing what it does best. Founder Wing Yip was awarded the OBE in 2010 for services to the Oriental food industry in the New Year Honours List, and received a lifetime achievement award at the World Food Awards.

In recent years, the influx of workers from Eastern Europe has prompted the emergence of Polish and other food specialists. We’re now used to seeing Tyskie beer in local independent stores and supermarkets alike. What can we look forward to next in terms of ‘new’ products from other countries with a similar crossover appeal? That’s the excitement of ethnic food and drink – there’s always something new in store.

The Grocery Trader

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