At a recent FoodEx and associated exhibition I attended in the UK, there were some great artisan products on show. There was an array of assorted cheeses, an increased prevalence of chilli and a small number of speciality gins including the refreshed own brand range and new products from UK retailer, Booker.
It is fair to say there was a time when Booker would have struggled to stand side by side with many of these artisan products – it perhaps was the co-located convenience store Pro Retail that has brought them together - but it is still a very striking demonstration of the investment in more premium own brand for convenience.
At the FoodEx event, a panellist discussion on how to drive footfall in convenience touched frequently on the food-to-go market. News, magazines and tobacco sales are all in decline, meaning retailers need to find new areas to drive footfall and the answers all appear to be around food-to-go; fresh, chilled and ready to eat food which people will buy locally - little and often - which cannot be serviced by the online food retailers.
Rather than viewing this as a threat to convenience, Martin Swadling, Brand Director at Londis, explained how they have launched new food-to-go products to respond to market demand.
In the UK and Scandinavia’s well-developed own brand markets, for convenience, proximity is, and probably always will be, the number one or number two criteria for shoppers.
The 'top up' shop remains a prevalent driver and is the main 'shopper mission' in convenience, but more and more people want the convenience that comes from food-for-now based on what they feel like there and then, rather than trying to second guess as part of their weekly shop.
Therefore, offering food-for-now and food-to-go alongside each other is increasingly important to satisfy shoppers doing their 'top up' shop. When the typical convenience shopping excursion is less than five minutes, it is important to have compelling and exciting product offers that grab the shopper. After all the product is key.
I'm a big believer that the product is what makes own brands successful - it has to deliver on the brand promise. The consequence of the increasing trend towards convenience is that retail brand loyalty is in decline. To counteract this, the product and product brand must deliver on price, quality and consistency. As Arjan Mehr, a Londis retailer said: "The convenience sector has never been in a better place.”