front-nov08.jpgWelcome to the November Grocery Trader. It’s a frosty autumn, in every sense. Many readers will have spent much of the last few weeks nervously clicking to news websites to catch up with the Footsie. It’s been horrible watching the market declining, and hearing first hand about budget cuts and so on from people out there. Talk about feeling the pain. Name your favourite recession year, 1980, 1992 or 2001: it feels like that. The politicians are saying 2009 will be bad but by 2010 things should stabilise. Fine, but first we must survive the next twelve months.

With most retailers from Tesco downwards shouting about their discounted products, life’s getting tougher for our branded suppliers. Lest we forget, they’re the ones who traditionally do the NPD and importantly, the advertising that drives category growth, and without which it’s hard to persuade, with respect, even the smaller C-store chains to give new products a listing.

Meanwhile life goes on. We have three features for you this month – Healthy Living, Spring Cleaning and Table Talk. With consumers rethinking their lifestyles in light of the new economic realities, this puts the spotlight on Healthy Living. The bright autumn days we’ve been seeing recently have been making things more bearable, and inspiring people to make the most of the sunshine and clean the place up. And as regularly eating out in restaurants becomes increasingly a luxury, home cooking is getting a revisit and consumers are becoming more inventive.

Do lean times mean leaner people? This column remembers the MD of a now defunct butchers’ chain talking nostalgically about how much fitter people were during war-time rationing: we’d like to be healthier, sure, but do we want a return to the days of nothing in the shops?

There’s some welcome cheer from this month’s interviewee, Michael Ollerup, European MD of Jack Link’s, the Beef Jerky manufacturer, who are launching some exciting new meat snacks. Jack has over 30 years’ experience in the European retailing industry, and spent 12 years with Carlsberg in Denmark and England, and 10 years with Coca-Cola in Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

From experience, Michael says, the little treats people give themselves are the last things to go in tough times. Consumers save on many things, but are still willing to pay when they’re hungry or thirsty. So he, for one, doesn’t see anything changing just yet. We hope you’re right, Michael!

Have a successful month.

Charles Smith

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