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Increased demand for organic produce during pandemic

Increased demand for organic produce during pandemic © Eurofresh Distribution
© Eurofresh Distribution

 

Sales of organic produce have surged in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, according to data published by Waitrose. During lockdown, the UK retailer registered a 13% rise in organic food sales, and a doubling in searches for its Organic Duchy range during the period. In recent months, sales of organic vegetables are up 23% from the same period in 2019, with 52 bags of organic carrots, 34 blueberry punnets and 39 bags of bananas sold every hour.

Rob Hues, Waitrose agriculture manager says: “For many the time at home has meant more time to prepare home-cooked meals and with that an increased awareness of where and how food comes to our kitchen tables. Provenance, animal welfare, taste and value have never mattered more to our shoppers and we see this increased interest only continuing.”

To respond to this increased demand, Waitrose has announced the launch of a new organic British blueberry range, the first time a UK supermarket has been able to offer the organic crop in commercial quantities from a British farm. The Waitrose Duchy Organic blueberries are grown in Herefordshire by a supplier who has supplied fruit to Waitrose for over 25 years. 

A recent survey by Waitrose found that environmental and ethical concerns have not dropped, as some claim, during the coronavirus pandemic. The study found that over half of respondents want retailers to show more information about ethical practices on packaging. Three quarters of respondents also said they wanted to see more British sourcing, and over 44% now actively seek out products with less packaging when shopping online.

Waitrose was the first UK supermarket to sell organic products in 1983 and its Waitrose Duchy Organic range has grown to become the UK’s largest own-label organic food and drink brand with 24 per cent of the current UK market share.

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Popularity of baby avocados poses export challenge

Many Spanish companies are now trading in mini avocados - aka babycados - due to demand from other markets but Spain says the current avocado trade standard poses a problem.

Amid a boom in demand for the baby version, Spain is calling for a change to the trade standard for avocados.

It says many Spanish companies are now trading in mini avocados – aka babycados – due to demand for them in other markets. However, Spain has had problems applying the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) standard for avocados to them. That’s because while these kinds of avocados are of good quality, they don’t comply with the standard’s sizing provisions, it said.

In a submission dated March 10, a Spanish delegation proposes that the avocado standard be amended so that its size requirements do not apply to miniature produce. It made the submission in the lead up to the 64th session of the Specialized Section on Standardization of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables of the UNECE Steering Committee on Trade Capacity and Standards, being held in Geneva April 18-21. 

UK premium retailer Marks and Spencer announced in January that it is now stocking mini Hass avocados, half the size of the regular avocado. Grown near Malaga, Spain, they will be on shelves from January-April and sold in packs of five for £2. M&S says the flavour is more concentrated in the smaller avocados, which are “rich, sweet and creamy.” It also reported that last year it sold more than 11.5 million units of avocados, up 18% on 2014.

Fellow UK retailer Waitrose also offers baby avocados. According to its website, the origins for the product are the US, Tanzania, Spain (incl. the Canary & Balearic Is.), South Africa, Peru, Morocco, Kenya, Israel, Colombia, Chile and Brazil.

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Waitrose plans to open 14 new branches in 2016

Waitrose expects to create 1,500 jobs in new branches and its e-commerce grocery depot in 2016.

Waitrose is to open 14 new shops across the UK from spring next year, including five new supermarkets and nine new little Waitrose convenience shops.

It will also create up to 200 roles in its e-commerce fulfilment centre in Coulsdon, South London, to service its expanding number of branches.

In a press release, the UK supermarket chain said the supermarkets already confirmed include High Wycombe (Buckinghamshire), Uttoxeter (Staffordshire) and Solihull (West Midlands), which will all open in spring, and Truro (Cornwall) and Worcester, which will open in summer.  

It will also add new little Waitrose shops in the South Bank Tower in central London and Leatherhead in Surrey during the summer and has plans for seven more convenience branches in new locations throughout next year.

Juice bars, areas for grazing and informal dining, wine bars and welcome desks are among the concepts Waitrose said it aims to introduce more of in the new stores, “to deliver the modern Waitrose shopping experience.”

It already has eight shops with a juice bar and five shops with a wine and beer bar and recently became the first national supermarket to install a counter for freshly made sushi in its shops with the launch of sushi counters in its Battersea Nine Elms and Bath branches (in partnership with Kelly Deli).

Waitrose director of development, Nigel Keen, said many of the new shops will “go beyond the traditional supermarket, delivering exciting modern shopping experiences, which tap into the growing demand for grazing and casual dining.”

“At a time when many retailers’ estates are contracting, we are delighted to be opening new shops around the country,” he said.

The new outlets will give Waitrose almost 200,000 sq ft more selling space.

Its 80,000 sq ft e-commerce grocery depot in Coulsdon opened in 2015 to allow the supermarket to build its online capacity. The multi million pound centre will eventually fulfill 20,000 orders a week or over 1 million orders a year for Waitrose customers living within the M25. It already employs almost 400 people and once fully operational expects to employ more than 700.

Waitrose currently has 346 shops in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands, including 62 convenience branches.

Its omnichannel business includes the online grocery service, Waitrose.com, through which customers can choose to have their shopping delivered direct to their home or collect items from their local branch with a Click & Collect service.

Read more articles about Waitrose: http://www.eurofresh-distribution.com/tags/waitrose

Images: Waitrose

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Waitrose introduces Sweet Sprouting Cauliflower

In hopes of widening cauliflower's appeal, UK supermarket chain Waitrose has introduced a new, versatile long stemmed version called Sweet Sprouting Cauliflower.

In hopes of widening cauliflower’s appeal, UK supermarket chain Waitrose has introduced a new, versatile long stemmed version called Sweet Sprouting Cauliflower.

In a press release, Waitrose said the vegetable, being grown exclusively for it in Lincolnshire, is faster to cook, crunchier in texture and sweeter than its larger relative.

It said Sweet Sprouting Cauliflower has never been sold before in the UK but has been popular in China for many years.

“It looks like a cross between long stemmed broccoli and the delicate white flowers popular in bridal bouquets. It is naturally low in calories and fats and is a source of fibre. An 80g serving counts as one of your five a day and will supply 60% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C,” Waitrose said.

Traditional cauliflower has had a bit of a renaissance of late. Healthy food bloggers have been blitzing it to make low carb pizza bases and chefs serving it charred as vegetarian ‘steaks‘. Waitrose thinks this new style will only increase its popularity further.”

Waitrose Vegetable Buyer, Gemma Hodgson said: “Long stemmed broccoli is really popular with our shoppers and so we are excited to introduce new variety of cauliflower. It is less dense than the more commonly known type and therefore very versatile. It can be eaten raw in salads, used in stir fries, steamed, roasted or barbecued in a matter of minutes.”

Sweet Sprouting Cauliflower is grown in a similar way to normal cauliflower but allowed to mature further so its florets separate to grow into stems. The stems have small, white heads similar to normal cauliflower but are much smaller and more delicate.

Packs of the new cauliflower cost £1.99 for 160g and are available in 186 Waitrose branches.

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Exploring Waitrose’s biggest store – Canary Wharf

About 15% of turnover at Waitrose’s Canary Wharf branch is from sales of fruit, vegetables, salads and flowers.

Waitrose’s three-storey, 73,000 sq ft. Canary Wharf branch is its biggest store and the one with the highest sales.

Officially a ‘Food, Fashion & Home’ store, it also has one of the biggest fruit and vegetable sections of all Waitrose branches. About 15% of the store’s turnover is from sales of fruit, vegetables, salads and flowers.

ED toured this Waitrose flagship store in early June as part of the London Produce Show and spoke to Buying Manager for fruit Jocelyn Clarke and Department Manager Anselm Colom.

Clarke said Waitrose is doing particularly well in produce, highlighting that while the retailer holds about a 5% share of the UK grocery market overall, its market share for fresh produce is higher, typically around 8%. “In terms of location we’ve got the best of all worlds here,” Colom told ED about the Canary Wharf branch, “we’ve got many customers who do a big shop, and hundreds of thousands who do small top-up shops, we’ve got people passing by, local residents, workers, people travelling into London – all sorts of different demographics.

“Our biggest challenge is physically trying to stock all the shelves all the time – it’s absolutely relentless but a nice problem to have.”

A big focus on fresh produce

Fresh produce is one of 13 sections in the store and includes the food-to-go offering. Clarke said there is saying in retail that if you don’t get produce right then customers go no further. At Canary Wharf, the fruit and vegetables section sits at the front of the store and there is a big focus on it, she said.

There are typically two layouts for the fruit and vegetable section – a summer and a winter one. The summer layout started in mid-April with soft fruit moved to the front, apples and citrus cut back a little and moved to the back, and more space for exotic and stone fruit and less for vegetables. “But we wouldn’t dream of moving potatoes, bananas or salads, they stay where they are all the time,” Colom said.

The top sellers: berries and citrus

Clarke said that over the course of a year, the branch’s top sellers are berries but at Christmas, citrus is the clear-cut best seller, as in the UK it is traditional to include some in Christmas stockings. The UK, Spain and South Africa are the main sources of the fruit in the store.

The berries cooler, located on the right at the very front of the store over summer, was rarely without a customer during ED’s visit and is replenished several times during open hours. Clarke said there is still a lot of opportunity to expand sales of berries – particularly blueberries – as the household penetration of this product is still relatively low.

Organic produce has small but loyal customer following

Organic produce accounted for 5-6% of total produce sales in the week ED visited. Colom said it used to generally be a bit higher but some weeks can still get up to about 12%.

Waitrose has a high market share in organic which is going from strength to strength. The new Waitrose Duchy Organic design was seen in store on berries. Clarke said this design would be seen on other fruits in the coming weeks.

Private labels and provenance

While private label – also known as own brand – products account for about 45% of Waitrose products overall, in the case of fresh produce this soars to 90-95%. Some brands are seen in salads, then there is also co-branding of Waitrose and Pink Lady, which sells well. Otherwise it is all about the Waitrose brand

Clarke said that Waitrose branches in country locations do see interest in local produce, as do stores in Scotland, such as for Scottish-grown strawberries.

Grapes must have crunch, texture, flavour

At the time of speaking to ED, Colom said the grapes on the branch’s shelves included the black seedless Sweet Sapphire, seedless white grapes including Sugraone and Prime,  and Early Sweet, and in red seedless, Flame.

“We look for crunch, great texture and really great flavour – a lot of aromas and sweet/acid balance,” Clarke said. “Cotton Candy was a good seller last year and we’re going to do more of it this year. Sable’s done exceptionally well and Italia is very popular.” She said Waitrose mainly sells seedless grapes, typical of the UK market. It doesn’t sell Red Globe and stocks only a couple of seeded varieties over the course of a year.

Fully automatic ordering

Colom said Waitrose uses an elaborate algorithm-based ordering system based at its head office so people in positions such as his no longer do ordering. The system factors in weather data, sales history, demand, space at a branch, and so on and “works out what we can sell for every single product.”

His priority is to ensure the stock thus ordered indeed reaches the store shelves. “It’s critical to do an off-sale check before we start in the morning, so we know what don’t have.” Also, given the short shelf life of fruit and vegetables, date rotation and quality are critical. “We do quality checks all the time.”

Much attention is also paid to ensuring the country of origin is on the ticket for each item, a legal requirement, “that’s absolutely critical,” he said.

Continuous replenishment

Most of the stock comes into the branch at night. Three deliveries of fruit and vegetables take place then, and another mid-afternoon, as well as 3 ambient deliveries, and various other special and additional deliveries.

A maximum of about 7-8 people in total work in Colom’s Fresh produce section at one time and while the shelves are filled through the night, during open hours they spend most of the time replenishing stock.

Colom said he is proud of the quality of the produce on the shelves and, in particular, of the deep knowledge of some of the partners (staff) on the section, such as on the different fruit and vegetable seasons. If you want to know about new Jersey potatoes in late April/early May, British asparagus in May, strawberries in June, certain apples in June and July, and so on – look for the person wearing the ‘fruit, veg & flowers specialist’ apron.

Waitrose: http://www.waitrose.com/
London Produce Show: http://londonproduceshow.co.uk/
Read more about Waitrose in our article: Waitrose banks on omnichannel strategy

JB

 

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Waitrose banks on omnichannel strategy

Last year Waitrose opened another 20 ‘little Waitrose’ convenience shops and 13 new core shops. It now has 339 shops in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands, including 61 convenience shops.

Upmarket grocer expanding in online and convenience as it braces for more pain in the world’s toughest food market.

In February, Waitrose regained its crown as the best UK supermarket after a year in which its like-for-like sales increased 1.4%, it had an average 400,000 more customer transactions a week, and its slice of the UK grocery market largely stayed above 5%, rising from 4.8% two years before.

Even so, a deflationary market and fierce competition from the fast-growing discounters Aldi and Lidl – forcing it to cut prices and invest in improved service – saw its operating profit tumble 23.4% to £237.4 million. And Waitrose expects returns for the grocery sector “to be materially lower for a period of time.”

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The UK grocery market is rapidly fragmenting and the ‘big four’ – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – are being squeezed at one end of the price and quality scale by Aldi and Lidl, and at the other end by upscale rivals Marks & Spencer and, particularly, Waitrose.

According to Kantar Worldpanel data on Great Britain’s grocery market, Waitrose’s share has risen from 4.6% in the 12 weeks to October 14, 2012, to 5.1% as at this June 21, while Lidl went from 2.8% to 3.9% and Aldi, overtaking Waitrose, from 3% to 5.5%.

Novel ‘Pick Your Own Offers’ scheme

Fighting back amid the unrelenting price war in the UK, in June Waitrose introduced a new scheme offering loyalty cardholders 20% off their favourite 10 items from an initial list of almost 1,000 lines.

WAITROSE Pick your own offers.png

Waitrose CEO Mark Price described the ‘Pick Your Own Offers’ scheme as ground-breaking but admitted it would be expensive for the grocer. Cherry vine tomatoes have been among the most chosen products so far.

Building online and convenience offer

Being “Britain’s leading omnichannel retailer” is now one of Waitrose’s key strategies, according to the John Lewis PLC financial statements for the year to January 31. The priorities listed under the goal include building Waitrose’s online presence, broadening its convenience offer, and developing compelling reasons to visit shops.

In order to grow its online grocery business, in March Waitrose opened a 90,000 sq ft bespoke e-fullfilment centre in Coulsdon, South London.

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Waitrose e-fullfilment centre in Coulsdon, South London

In regard to its convenience offer, last year Waitrose opened another 20 ‘little Waitrose’ convenience shops and 13 new core shops. It now has 339 shops in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands, including 61 convenience shops.

Central London was the focus for the new ‘little Waitrose’ openings last year but this year Waitrose has said it will go further afield in Greater London for its planned 7 new ‘little Waitrose’ shops.

little Waitrose at John Lewis Watford - Edited.jpg

The ‘little Waitrose’ shops range from 3,000-7,000 sq ft, in comparison to an average sales area of 20,000 sq ft for traditional Waitrose branches. In August last year, in a bid to attract ‘transumers’ – the fast-growing market of travelling consumers – Waitrose opened the first of its railway station outlets, a 2,500 sq ft ‘little Waitrose’ store at King’s Cross in central London.  

And among measures to encourage visits to stores and respond to changing shopping habits, Waitrose has introduced new services, hospitality – such as opening more in-store cafes – and grazing areas where shoppers can try food and drink. “Branches like Salisbury are tapping into growth in casual dining with a wine and tapas bar.”

Responding to food trends

In its Food & Drink Report 2014, Waitrose reported on its response to food trends including “a huge surge” in flexitarianism – where someone follows a plant-based diet but occasionally eats meat products.

“Shoppers are choosing a ‘hero’ vegetable – such as a stuffed mushroom or a spiced aubergine – and adding a sprinkling of bacon chunks or chorizo pieces. To meet this growing demand we have launched new vegetable meals, such as our mushroom and spinach filo parcel and a new baby kale and butternut squash microsteam pack to save time for our flexitarian shoppers.”

Waitrose also said consumers’ taste buds are demanding new, exotic flavours and increasingly there’s a mix-and-match approach, using ingredients associated with one country in dishes from another. “Yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, is now often used in French dressings, and Kimchi, fermented cabbage from Korea, is employed as a burger dressing.”

The same report said that compared to 2013:

  • Exotic fruit online sales were up 81%
  • Stuffed mushrooms sales were up 22%
  • Stuffed pepper sales were up 17%

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Inside Waitrose, Canary Wharf

Summer brings higher salad, fruit sales

According to recent weekly trade updates by Waitrose, it is seeing strong increases in its sales of salad bowls and British asparagus, which for the week to June 6 were up 43% and 41% respectively on the same week last year, while frozen fruit surged 26% and soft fruit saw an 11% uplift. And for the week to July 3, it said the start of Wimbledon saw strawberry sales up 15%. Amid the good weather, its ‘food to go’ range was up 10%, with salads proving particularly popular, at 21% higher than last year​. Waitrose has also reported that with the bumper UK cherry harvest this year it has 20% more of this fruit on sale.

sources: various, including Waitrose, Kantar Worldpanel

JB