Chloe Malik, Director, Hot Marketing that specialises in ethnic marketing in the UK

The ethnic food landscape is changing a pace with Britain seemingly becoming more adventurous with home cooked meals, which research suggests could be to do with people feeling the financial squeeze and buying into larger pack sizes or volume sales, which were traditionally meant for the ethnic shopper. I have been working in ethnic marketing/ethnic food for longer than I care to remember. Travel to far flung lands and our love affair with celebrity chefs has always influenced our buying patterns, but what has changed is that we are not eating out as much. In the past not everyone had been to Delhi, Dakha or Durango, so the barometer was likely to be a local restaurant or takeaway. According to a report released by NPD Group, ethnic restaurants and takeaways attracted 123 million fewer visits between 2009 and 2012 in a period that the multiples have experienced huge growth. The retail sector is no longer in the shadows, but rather leading the way. As we are eating out less, we are indulging our tastes for all things foreign at home.

I am delighted that the ethnic market and particularly the ethnic food market continue to evolve. In 1997 when I was working on the Ethnic Food Show I coined a phrase “Chicken Tikka Masala, the UK’s national dish” this is not the case anymore. Any self-respecting foodie wouldn’t dream of settling for this British invention, people are now wanting ever greater authenticity. All the multiples now boast world food aisles where all manner of wonderful and exotic ingredients can be found easily by everyone, which seems to be the best way of presenting these foods so that they are simple to locate for all. What is changing is how they are presented with each aisle having “bus stop” POS, delineating each section and a number of erstwhile “ethnic brands” upping their game in terms of packaging.”

Paresh Metha, Director, KTC Edibles: “The grocery trade is highly competitive and as a brand that has grown up in the ethnic market we are now seeing mainstream multiples making up more of our sales. We know we are no longer just appealing to our core ethnic consumer but also becoming a brand that is part of the mainstream’s weekly shop based on quality, authenticity and value. This has led us to re-design all our packaging making it simpler and more sophisticated, in line with all our consumers whether ethnic or mainstream. I think the ethnic population is having a big influence on how everyone shops and eats in the UK.”

Hennah Baseer, Category Planner, Sainsbury’s elaborates: “The UK is a culturally diverse country and we believe our supermarkets should reflect this. Lots of our customers come to Sainsbury’s looking for specific foods or cooking ingredients, which help provide authentic tastes from around the world.

In the last year, we have noticed a large increase in the number of customers shopping within our world food aisles and it’s important we continue to understand what products are important to these customers.

We are seeing exceptional growth during key festivals such as Passover, Diwali and Ramadan, just as you would expect during Christmas. For some of our customers these events are simply the equivalent to Christmas and therefore we celebrate these events in the relevant stores in the same way – whether this is promotion, prominent signage to mark the occasion and larger spaces available on shelves for the most relevant products.

During 2013 we have been on a journey to improve the number of products available across the store rather than limiting products to just one category – for example canned and packaged. This allows customers to complete a full weekly shop and find products within all the areas of the store such as grocery, frozen, fresh and chilled. This ensures we offer our customers the most convenient shopping experience – which keeps them coming back to Sainsbury’s.

Earlier this year we launched a new Irish range as we have seen an increase in the number of Irish people moving into the UK – particularly in concentrated pockets in London. With new products including Barmbrack, Kimberley Biscuits and Tayto crisps.”

Our hunger world food is not set to abate. If you want a small hint of how big this sector is going to be in the future, the 2011 Census shows that 14% of the UK’s population is now from an ethnic background and growing far quicker than the indigenous population. In addition, according to Mintel, 6 out of 10 adults enjoy eating a myriad of foreign food and 32% of regular food shoppers say they now eat spicier food compared to a few years ago. The other massive change I have seen is the menus of schools and nurseries are just as likely to include curries, tortillas and stir-fries as they do fish fingers. According to Mintel more than 58% of parents who are fans of ethnic food agree it is important to introduce children to different cuisines, great news for a market that is already on the up.

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