International cuisine is now twice as popular as traditional British food. Toby Hill looks at which countries’ products are the must-stocks, as well as which are the top new destinations in consumers’ cooking adventures.
Brexit may mean Brexit, but Britain’s hunger for world cuisine continues unabated. A survey by Giraffe World Kitchen found that the average adult will consume more than double the number of international dishes than they will traditional UK meals between the ages of 18 and 81.
Indeed, as ever-cheaper flights carry travellers around the world and more people dine out regularly, consumer tastes are becoming more adventurous and more sophisticated. “No longer is it good enough to go for a curry or a Chinese,” notes Paresh Mehta, commercial director at world foods manufacturer KTC. “Consumers want to try a Goan curry or Szechuan chicken, as they are looking for food that is authentic and has real provenance.”
For wholesalers, this provides a host of opportunities. On-trade outlets need basic ingredients, retailers seek exciting new products, and time-short cooks want speedy solutions that let them try new flavours without having to spend hours slaving over a hot stove.
On the other hand, catering to such diverse needs can be a challenge. This guide aims to give you a broad overview of the World Foods category – travelling from savoury to sweet, and from east Asia to the Caribbean coast, via Europe.
Round the world in 20 minutes
More and more people are keen to try fresh flavours and new dishes – but they also have less and less time to spend experimenting in the kitchen.
“Consumers want to feel that they are cooking and replicating food experiences in the home, but they are time-poor,” says KTC’s Mehta. “The same applies to chefs who want flavour without too much hassle.”
Fortunately, there are plenty of products to help wholesalers meet these seemingly contradictory missions. KTC Minced Garlic and Minced Ginger are perfect for harried home chefs, while KTC Organic Cold Pressed Coconut and Rapeseed Oils provide an immediate hit of additional flavour. Meanwhile, large packs of KTC oil, ghee, coconut products and pulses are ideal for the on-trade.
For consumers truly pushed for time, Kraft Heinz’s Creationz range contains several products which work either on their own or as side dishes to an exotic meal. As well as Mexican Beanz and Veg Chilli Beanz, the range includes Tagine Chickpeas, perfect for serving in a tagine or as a side with lamb, and Heinz Curry Lentils, easily stirred into chicken curry or simply served with naan.
“This worldwide inspired selection also taps into the increasing consumer demand for consuming balanced meals, by providing two of their five a day in each portion,” says Lucy Clark, Kraft Heinz’s quick hot meals marketing lead.
Get saucy: from east Asia to the Caribbean
Thirty years ago, soy sauce was unknown in the UK; now, you would be hard-pushed to find a household without it. It was first placed on UK shelves by Kikkoman, and the firm has expanded rapidly since, recently adding reduced salt and gluten-free varieties to its range.
Beyond soy, the teriyaki market is up 11.6% year-on-year and is now worth £4.4m in the UK. Kikkoman has a wide range to meet this demand, including teriyaki sauces flavoured with roasted garlic and toasted sesame, as well as a teriyaki marinade.
For a premium option, wholesalers can consider the sauces and pastes of Nonya Secrets, a new firm established by renowned restaurateur Maureen Suan Neo. Attractively presented in glass jars and with an RRP of £5.95, Neo has created a range of intense flavours, including Chilli and Ginger Sauce, Sambal Curry Mix and Spicy Peanut Sauce.
Beyond Asia, Caribbean foods manufacturer Grace Foods has an established range of hot sauces, to which it has just added its hottest yet: Carolina Reaper Chilli Sauce, which is made with a chilli renowned for being the world’s hottest, according to brand manager Sam Bidgood. It is available in cases of 6x142ml glass bottles, with an RRP of £1.49.
45% of Brits choose to eat in Italian restaurants, and a recent report from Horizons ranked Italian as the most popular type of cuisine on restaurant menus. So, when catering to the on-trade, most wholesalers will benefit from prioritising Italian ingredients.
Kerrymaid offers a range of products that make it easy to do so. Its Pizza Grate topping, a blend of vegetable oil, milk and mozzarella, is used by pizza producers across the UK. The firm also recently launched Bechamel Kitchen Sauce, a quick and easy addition to creamy pasta sauces such as lasagne and carbonara that comes in a convenient, ready-to-use format.
Alternatively, the simple techniques and strong flavours of Mexican cooking make it perfect for a night-in meal, helping the sector grow 2.9% in convenience last year.
General Mills UK, under its distinctive sun-yellow Old El Paso brand, offers a range of products ideal for time-pressed people who want to make tasty meals at home. Fajita kits are the bestselling format in Mexican and Old El Paso’s Smoky BBQ Fajita Dinner Kit is the sector’s bestseller. General Mills also recently extended its Old El Paso Stand ’N’ Stuff (SNS) platform to include Flour Tortillas, Whole Wheat Tortillas and a Crispy Chicken Kit.
Mexican food is easy to share around, making it perfect for big night-in opportunities such as family occasions or big sporting events.
“Around these key times, an effective tactic is to sell Old El Paso products as part of a bigger meal solution, placing products such as Mexican beers, salsa and jalapeños next to meal kits to encourage more purchases and inform how the end-retailer merchandises the products in-store,” advises Lindsay Hill, marketing manager for Old El Paso at General Mills UK.
A world of snacks…
Research firm Nielsen estimates that independent stores sell an average of 273 packs of savoury snacks per week. Consequently, wholesalers serving an area with a diverse population (or simply residents with adventurous tastes) could be missing a trick if they don’t include some global snacks in their range.
A good place to start is CoFresh, the number-one Indian snacking brand, which offers a broad range of snacking products, including the popular Bombay Mix, the fiery Vindaloo Mix and potato-based Mix-Ups. Its Ruff Nuts range includes Peri Peri and Vindaloo varieties.
CoFresh also supports wholesalers with point-of-sale material, display solutions, and sales literature, and will provide a recommended range according to outlet type and location – helping wholesalers tailor their range to their customer base.
Alternatively, wholesalers may want to offer some global options to meet their customers’ hunger for something sweet. Kerrymaid’s Angelito ice-cream mix, packaged in red, white and blue, is perfect for creating classic American sundaes in quantities large enough for cafés, restaurants and ice-cream parlours.
Or, for an artisan alternative from the Middle East, Truede’s Turkish delight comes in a range of flavours – Pomegranate, Lavender, Rose and Mixed Nut – all presented in decorative cases.
“Turkish Delight has moved on from being perceived as just a grab-and-go chocolate treat,” says Truede founder, Zeynep Turudi. “It’s perfect for enjoying with a coffee or at the end of a meal.”
“When it comes to West African food, we often struggle to find exactly what we need atscale and with the consistency we need from wholesalers. I know this is even more of a challenge for those restaurants based outside of London. Linking to that point is the reliability of product, both in terms of quality and availability.
“Also, growing up with technology, an online ordering platform would be great for us. But ultimately this links back to my first point. If there’s not a wholesaler operating at scale, they’re unlikely to want to invest in such technology. Seeing the growth in popularity of West African food establishments, I expect the greater demand will push suppliers to up their game. It’s one of those chicken and egg scenarios.”
Emeka Frederick, CEO and co-founder, Chuku’s, London
“We don’t have a specific section dedicated to World Foods – we just make sure we keep the basics in stock. We have a few marinades such as harissa paste, a wide range of pulses such as haricot beans, Caribbean milkshakes, and heaps of herbs and spices. It’s so normalised now that it’s mixed in with everything else on the shelf.”
Jason Bushnell, Budgens Mortimer, Reading
“As the sector takes off, we’re expanding into Middle Eastern and adding new products to our African range. The demand is definitely there. Most of our customers are independent retailers and whereas world foods were seen before as a niche speciality for stores catering to specific demographics, they’re now going mainstream.”
Jag Singh, Wanis, London
“Our customer base is West African, but as time has gone on, we have served customers from all different cultures and races. Globalisation, the rise of the internet, social media, travel, more people going to restaurants – all this has changed eating habits in the UK. Our classic sweet breads are the most popular, but we sell our fish and chicken pies and Ghanaian cakes to all sorts of customers.”
Sam Mensah, Uncle John’s Bakery, London