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Stubbins repositions after half century of fresh produce success

Stubbins, one of the UK’s leading fresh produce growers and importers, has expanded into ambient and frozen, dairy, fish and confectionery

Stubbins, one of the UK’s leading fresh produce growers and importers, has expanded into ambient and frozen, dairy, fish and confectionery. “And we have plans in place to extend the range further in the near future,” Stubbins managing director Peter Turone has told ED.

Having notched up 50 successful years and evolving into a pan-European distribution company and one of the biggest suppliers of salads to the UK’s large supermarket chains, the Waltham Cross-based firm has been quietly repositioning itself as a supply chain specialist and wider food group.

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Stubbins managing director Peter Turone 

Turone said Stubbins won’t abandon its fresh produce roots, but is harnessing its successful approach to partnerships in the produce world to offers its services to a wider network of customers, “with a broader range of exciting new products.”

“Over the years, our commitment to long-term partnerships has allowed us to forge exceptionally close ties with local, national and international growers, and underpinned the relationships at our own growing facilities in the UK, Italy, Spain, Poland and Holland that have allowed the company to be a reliable supplier of top-quality produce year-round,” he said.

“We are our partners’ one-stop solution supply chain specialist, whether that be in the fresh, chilled, frozen or ambient product sectors.”

stubbs.JPGWaltham Cross food hub

The one-stop, supply chain specialist

In 2007, Stubbins opened its Fresh Salad Box in London’s New Spitalfields Market to sell its own products and operate through one wholesale facility. “This busy London market has brought us closer to customers, in particular the restaurant and foodservice industry as well as the fast-expanding ‘ethnic’ market trade in and around London. In just eight years, sales have quadrupled on our first year and we sell the total range of produce from fruit to exotics and vegetables to salads,” Turone said.

And this January Stubbins introduced freezer display cabinets for its first ever frozen fruit and vegetable offer, “and the first in New Spitalfields.”

kerr croppd.jpgFresh Salad Box’s David Kerr

Glasshouse focus on tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers

Meanwhile the firm is continuing to increase its glasshouse production in the UK with particular focus on tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Turone said plum types have seen increases year on year in the UK thanks to promotions and added value varieties delivering better taste and flavour. Food service chains have been trading up to premium varieties and helping accelerating their growth. Also seeing growth is the cherry OTV, helped by the presence and good availability of high quality sales of Piccolo cherry tomatoes.

London Produce Show official partner

Stubbins Food Partnerships is an official partner of the London Produce Show and Conference, and host company of the opening cocktail. Turone said the show offers “a national and international brand position from which we can communicate, interact and network with our industry counterparts and find new partners for Stubbins Food Partnerships as we move the business forward.”


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The new purple asparagus variety Burgundine being trialled in UK

Sales of a new variety of asparagus that can also be eaten raw is being trialled by Tesco in the UK.

Tesco is trialling sales in in the UK of a new variety of asparagus – Burgundine – that can cooked or eaten raw.

In a press release, the supermarket chain said Burgundine is a purple and green cross and has been grown in Thornham, north Norfolk, specifically as a new salad crop. It could prove popular with office workers looking for a healthy lunchtime snack, it said.

The variety can be eaten raw after being washed because it contains slightly less lignim, the fibre element in asparagus. “The great thing about Burgundine asparagus is its versatility because it can be eaten both raw and also gently steamed or stir fried,” said Tesco produce buyer James Strathdee. “It is an eye-catching variety that is exceptionally sweet, juicy, crunchy and great for eating with dips and in salads.”

The British Asparagus season usually lasts from St George’s Day on April 21 until Midsummer’s Day on June 21, Tesco said. 

It said its finest Burgundine salad asparagus would on sale in 102 Tesco stores at £2 for 100g.


Source: Tesco press release

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Big ad spends help Aldi, Lidl grab more of UK market

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German discounters Aldi and Lidl now hold an 11% slice of UK grocery sales.

According to Nielsen figures for the 12 weeks to March 28, Aldi’s sales grew 17.9% year-on-year, to reach a 6.2% share of the grocery market, and Lidl’s sales rose 10.8%, for a 4.9% share – cementing their positions as the UK’s 5th and 7th biggest supermarkets, respectively.

Lidl biggest spender on TV & press ads

In the four weeks to March 28, Lidl spent the most on TV and press advertising (£5.9 million) – up 160%  on the same period last year – followed by Asda (£4.0 million) and Aldi (£3.5 million).

“Aldi and Lidl have become the fifth and seventh biggest supermarkets partly due to their large ongoing investment in advertising. Not only do they consistently spend the most in relation to each percentage of market share they hold, their advertising has changed the perceptions and expectations of UK shoppers,” Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight Mike Watkins said.

Bad month for the Big Four

Over the same period, all of the big four supermarkets saw a decline in year-on-year grocery sales. Asda’s slipped 1.7%, Tesco’s 1.1% and Sainsbury’s and Morrisons 0.6% each.

However, Tesco remained in top ranking, with a share of 27.5%, followed by Sainsbury’s with 16%, Asda with 15.7% and Morrisons with 10.7%.

Outlook for next 3 months more positive

Watkins said the current trading environment is challenging for the supermarkets. “…people (are) spending less on groceries than they used to.”

“Consumer spend continues to be impacted by a combination of record-low food inflation and supermarkets’ competitive pricing policies – good news for shoppers but not retailers, whose margins are continually under pressure. However, the outlook for the next three months is more positive than we’ve seen for some considerable time,” he said.

Read the Nielsen press release.
image source





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Tomato sales value slipped last year in UK

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The value of tomato sales in the UK slipped last year, Kantar Worldpanel data shows.

Figures for the 52 weeks to December 7 show total sales of £706.2 million, down 4.8% on the same period in the previous 12 months. This was despite the sales volume rising slightly – by 1.1% – to nearly 258,000 tons.

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source: Kantar Worldpanel

Tomatoes in one in four shopping baskets

But tomatoes remain popular with consumers, data from shows. They came in 7th on its list of the 25 most bought items in its UK shoppers’ baskets last year. And they were in more than one in four shopping baskets bought in the UK from mySupermarket in 2014.

The company’s figures for December 2013 to November 2014 also show tomatoes are popular year–round. Over those twelve months, an average of 27.5% of all shopping baskets had tomatoes in them, with a dip to 19.98% in December 2013 and rise to above 30% last June and July.

Mostly non–loose and non–organic tomatoes

The vast majority of the tomatoes were pre–packed and very few organic. On average, just 0.87% of baskets had organic tomatoes in them. This level was fairly consistent throughout the year and while low, was higher than for other products, such as peppers (0.34%) and berries (0.61%), both of which showed more monthly variation.

An online shopping and comparison website, MySupermarket, gathers data from more than 50,000 unique shoppers and 4.5 million visitors each month. In terms of traffic it is the UK’s third largest supermarket after Tesco and Asda.




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Sainsbury’s opens its first ‘click and collect’ grocery stores

UK retailer Sainsbury’s is rolling out a new service allowing customers the option of picking up the shopping they’ve ordered online from a nearby store.

UK retailer Sainsbury’s has this month started rolling out its new ‘click and collect’ service allowing customers to pick up the shopping they’ve ordered online from a store.

More than 20 Sainsbury’s stores will be offering the service by the end of the month and 100 stores are in the pipeline to join them by the end of the year.

The service means customers shopping online – in addition to still being able to book the usual home delivery slots – could choose a participating store and time to pick up their shopping from a refrigerated van which parked in the store’s car park.

Sainsbury’s Online Director, Robbie Feather, said: “This is yet another step for Sainsbury’s increasingly popular online service, and a demonstration of our commitment to giving our customers more convenient ways to shop with us, wherever and whenever they want.” Sainsbury’s online business is 18 years old and a £1 billion business (5% of sales).

The free collection slots will be available at eligible stores from Monday to Saturday from 8am to 1pm and then 2pm until 8pm in the evening. The service will also be available during store opening times on a Sunday. Collections are subject to a minimum £20 spend, with no collection charge. Orders may be placed up to 20 days in advance and as late as 11pm for next day collection.



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ASDA braces for hard year


UK supermarket chain cuts prices and also aims to cut waste with promotion of ‘wonky’ fruit

At the start of what it says will be the “toughest year yet” in UK retailing, Asda announced its biggest ever investment in price cuts and a campaign to reduce waste of ‘wonky’ fruit. The Walmart–owned UK supermarket chain is spending more than £300m (€391.6m) to lower 2,500 prices for fruit, vegetables and other basket essentials.

Among the changes: 750g of Russet apples cut £0.25 to £1, cucumber halves down £0.05p to £0.30, £0.77 off banana 10-packs to £1.35, and bell peppers cut from £0.77 to £0.57 each.

Asda said the price ‘rollback’ is part of its five-year strategy to invest £1bn in lowering prices and £250m in quality to cement its role in “redefining value retailing.”


‘Beautiful On The Inside’ promotion of ‘ugly’ fruit

Also in January, Asda launched a campaign in five of its stores to sell ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables at a discounted price.It said this would help reduce food waste, support farmers and offer better value for money.

Crooked carrots, knobbly pears and wonky spuds will be labelled ‘Beautiful On The Inside’, bagged separately and sold at a reduced rate.

Asda produce technical director Ian Harrison said the campaign is the latest in a series of initiatives to show Asda’s commitment to helping reduce waste throughout its supply chain.

How Asda locked in low prices for seedless table grapes

Another example of supply chain improvements is Asda’s achievement last year of a 52-weeks a year seedless table grape supply.

Alberto Goldbacher from ASDA buyer International Procurement and Logistics Ltd (IPL), said this means much more than grapes on ASDA shelves year-round. Based in West Yorkshire, IPL’s grapes and stone fruit category manager said it had allowed the retailer to lock in low prices, too.

While other retail chains at times offer heavily discounted grapes, Asda is committed to stable, affordable prices through most of the year, “and that is what the consumer prefers.” Customers essentially want “simple prices” – low prices that are fixed, he said.

Consistent low prices spur sales growth

At the time of his presentation at ‘Grape Attraction’ last October in Madrid, Goldbacher said Asda had been selling 500g of seedless table grapes for £1.50 (€1.90) for 17 months. This followed 4-5 years when the price was around £2.

Other retailers would like to follow, but in terms of supply chain optimisation “we’re 16 months ahead of them.” They can offer grapes at that price for 1–2 weeks, but not consistently, he said.


This is an abbreviation of an article which appeared on page 34 of edition 135 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read it for free here.



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UK’s organic market grows despite fall in food spending

There were sharp increases for some organic products, among them fresh fruit – up 6.4%.

Sales of organic products rose 4% in the UK in 2014, a year when food prices fell 1.9% and food spending 1.1%.

The Soil Association’s 2015 Organic Market Report also shows fresh fruit and vegetables and dairy products were the most popular organic purchases.

And amid the context of sliding non-organic sales, there were sharp increases for some organic products, among them fresh fruit – up 6.4%.

“Sales of organic vegetables fell by 2%, but in a context in which non-organic sales plummeted at five times this rate,” the association said in a press release.

There was also significant growth in organic supply into catering, (13.6%),

The association said the nutritional credentials of organic gained a big boost in July when landmark Newcastle University research showed organic crops including fruit and vegetables are up to 60% higher than non-organic research from.

Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning said said three years ago commentators were writing off the organic market in the UK.” Now, with a third year of steady growth, and against a falling overall food market, it’s clear that reports of organic food’s demise were premature to say the least,” she said.

“Now, even the discounters are beginning to stock organic ranges.”


Details of 2015 Organic Market Report:



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Price cuts push up pepper sales in UK

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Peppers among top 25 food items, with mixed colour packs the most popular

People in the UK have been eating more peppers but paying less for them. So while retail sales of peppers in the UK are up 10.7% in volume on a year ago, Kantar Worldpanel data shows they’re down 10.4% in value.

Comparing figures for the 52 weeks to December 7 with the same period a year before, the volume of peppers per buyer rose 8% to 5.43kg but their spend on peppers fell 12.7%  to £15.66. The price per kilogram of peppers dropped 20% – or £0.68 – to £2.88, outweighing the gained volume.

In total sales, the volume rose 10,253 tons to 105,889 tons while the value slid £35.2 million to £305.1 million.

According to Kantar, the price decrease took place across both full-price and promoted peppers. The level of promotions has not just been higher, they have been more generous compared to the previous year and mainly involved temporary price cuts rather than an increase in volume-based offers such as multi-buy deals.

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source: Kantar Worldpanel

Consumers mainly buying pre-packed, non-organic peppers

Meanwhile, peppers were 17th among the top 25 most bought items in food baskets ordered from last year.

Data from its 50,000 monthly shoppers for the 12 months to the end of last November shows that on average, 19.45% – or about one in five – of all shopping baskets had peppers in them. Almost all these peppers were pre-packed and non-organic.

It also shows a small spike in pepper sales in January after which they tapered to a fairly consistent level for the rest of the year.

In terms of pepper types, mixed packs were the most popular, followed by red peppers.




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Berries in one in four UK shopping baskets over summer

More than one in four shopping baskets sold by mySupermarket in the UK had berries in them last May–August. The average of nearly 26% for those warmer months – up from about 18.5% over twelve months – shows the seasonal nature of berry consumption.

More than one in four shopping baskets sold by mySupermarket in the UK had berries in them last May–August.
The average of nearly 26% for those warmer months – up from about 18.5% over twelve months – shows the seasonal nature of berry consumption.
Sales of organic berries were consistent with this spike. From January–November last year, just 0.61% of all shopping baskets contained organic berries but this rose to an average of 0.81% for May–August, though the vast majority of berries sold were still conventional.
The berries included in the data were strawberries, assorted berries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries and all were sold pre-packed.
The data came from, which said it is derived from its about 50,000 monthly shoppers.

Berry sales up in UK

Retail sales of fresh berries have risen 11% in both value and volume in the UK, Kantar Worldpanel data shows.

Figures for the 52 weeks to December 7 show total sales of nearly £893.4 million, up from just over £803,4 million for the same period the previous year. A total of 150,781 tons of berries were sold, up from 135,674 tons.

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Read more berry news on pages 104-111 of edition 135 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine.

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Tesco returns to growth as British shoppers spend more on groceries



The British grocery market is growing at 1.1%, the fastest rate since June 2014, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

Its grocery share figures for the 12 weeks to February 1 also show:

  • Tesco, Britain’s largest retailer, returned to growth for the first time since January 2014, increasing sales 0.3% on the same time last year, but its overall market share fell to 29%, down 0.2 percentage points on last year.

  • Asda reclaimed the title of second largest retailer this period with 16.9% of the market, overtaking Sainsbury’s, which traditionally performs more strongly at Christmas than the rest of the year. But both grocers saw sales fall compared with a year ago – Asda by 1.7% and Sainsbury’s by 1.0%.

  • Morrisons’ sales fell 0.4%, the best performance from the Bradford-based retailer since December 2013.


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based on data for 12 weeks to February 1, 2015


Kantar Worldpanel head of retail and consumer insight Fraser McKevitt said Tesco is bouncing back from a tough year, with efforts to overhaul the supermarket attracting an additional 236,000 shoppers into its stores in the last 12 weeks.

“Early results suggest that discounters Aldi and Lidl will find their accelerated growth levels hard to match in 2015. Aldi’s growth of 21.2% is still impressive but a relative slowing from its 36% peak in May 2014. Likewise, Lidl’s maximum growth of 24% in the same period is now down to 14.2%. Despite this slowdown, both retailers are still taking share from the other retailers – rising 0.8 percentage points and 0.4 percentage points respectively to 4.9% and 3.5%,” he said.

At the premium end of the market, Waitrose has supported growth with a greater focus on price and promotion, delivering a 7.2% sales rise taking its overall share to 5.2%.

British grocery market accelerating

McKevitt said British shoppers are taking advantage of lower fuel prices and the ongoing supermarket price war to slightly increase their grocery spending. “This has pushed the market into 1.1% growth, low by historical standards but a considerable improvement compared to November 2014, when the market contracted.”

“All of the major grocers have continued to compete fiercely on price leading to like-for-like grocery prices falling by 1.2%. This is another record low, saving Britain’s shoppers £327 million over the past 12 weeks,” he said.

Tool for seeing latest rankings

Kantar Worldpanel now provides an online visualisation tool for its grocery market share data (including historical figures) here: