Louise Banham reveals four ways wholesalers can capitalise on Chinese New Year
January is a notoriously tough month, with consumers recovering from Christmas spending. But with Asian cuisine one of the fastest-growing trends in the foodservice market and Chinese New Year falling on January 31, wholesalers can boost sales by supporting the event and encouraging customers to do so as well.
Three out of four consumers say they order ethnic foods and flavours away from home at least once a month, and 38% report that they do so weekly. This presents a great opportunity for wholesalers to increase footfall and generate sales, as caterers will be keen to make the most of Chinese New Year.
Review and stock a thorough range. Make it easy to locate
Wholesalers need to ensure they are stocking a comprehensive range of products to capitalise on caterers’ Chinese New Year offerings. According to Mark Rigby, executive chef at Premier Foods, wholesalers should dedicate displays in-store specifically to their Chinese ranges, with sauces, noodles, marinades, prawn crackers and dips all sited together in the build-up to Chinese New Year. “This will ensure it is easy for time-pushed caterers to shop quickly and should help increase sales,” he says.
Brian Yip, director at Wing Yip, which has four superstores in the UK and distributes authentic Chinese food throughout the country, says reviewing product lines that tap into Chinese New Year traditions and customs is a great way to move products and also start an uplift in sales. “Many existing product lines could be adapted to suit the Chinese New Year theme,” he says. “For example, items such as oranges, fish and noodles should all be placed in the direct line of sight of customers. Point-of-sale fixtures and signage are also key to attracting customers’ attention to these themed fixtures.”
Rigby adds that wholesalers can also promote their Chinese offering online, as caterers turn to delivered wholesale over cash & carry. “Many will also be checking offers and deals online before visiting their wholesalers, so it is important to make sure an event such as Chinese New Year is a focus on the website and that it is easy to navigate,” he says.
Offer menu ideas. Themed nights and three-course meals
The period between the festive season and Valentine’s Day is often quiet, with very few opportunities for the foodservice channel to leverage, but Brian Yip says the opportunity that Chinese New Year brings can fill this gap. “It provides the opportunity to boost profits with themed nights and three-course Oriental meals,” he says.
“It also gives pubs and restaurants the chance to move away from repetitive menu offerings and test the water with Oriental dishes, which may later become permanent fixtures.”
For caterers looking to try out a Chinese menu, manufacturers offer a range of simple recipe suggestions. Mark Rigby says Sharwood’s has a wide range of recipes to help chefs develop a specialist menu for Chinese New Year, with hot and cold dishes for both starters and main courses.
“If wholesalers are able to offer advice and menu ideas, that will help put them ahead of the competition,” he says. “Suitable recipes include Marinated Lamb with Chilli & Peppers in Black Bean Sauce, Beef Chow Mein, Sweet & Sour Salmon Noodle Salad and Vegetarian Black Bean Stir Fry.”
Yip recommends pubs and restaurants take advantage of the fact Chinese food is often shared. “Platters of nibbles, snacks and sauces will be an instant hit with diners, and disposable chopsticks will add a traditional feel to any themed event,” he says. Wholesalers can direct foodservice customers to premierfoodservice.co.uk/recipes and unileverfoodsolutions.co.uk/recipes/world-cuisine/oriental-cuisine for more ideas.
Create theatre in-depot. Plan a dragon dance
As well as being the longest-running Chinese festival, Chinese New Year is a huge celebration among Chinese communities. Theatre plays a big part in celebrations, and wholesalers and cash & carries that want to make the most of the event should tap into the lively and vibrant festivities by creating themed displays.
Key Oriental food and drink suppliers are expected to ramp up their activity ahead of the event, which wholesalers can use to draw more attention to their ranges. “It’s the perfect way for wholesalers and cash & carries to generate a buzz at a quieter time of year,” says Yip. “If you are feeling bold, you could even have a dragon dance and offer samples of Chinese food. At each of our stores, we are having a lucky dragon dance to wish us good luck and a prosperous year.”
Encourage cross- promotion Support ‘mission-based’ shopping
While the opportunity isn’t as large in retail as it is in foodservice, retail customers shouldn’t miss out on the chance to capitalise on the event.
Heinz, which makes Amoy, says consumer interest in cooking from scratch is growing, as is a desire to discover new eating experiences and flavours from around the world, and this should be reflected in a retailer’s range.
With c-stores offering more variety and a wider range of products, shoppers are visiting more often and buying across a number of categories. Premier Foods says retailers should be urged to merchandise cooking sauces and accompaniments together and cross-promote with chicken to support ‘mission-based shopping’.