Food Fax

September 2003

The Changing Face of British Food
By Carol T. Culhane, P.H.Ec. MBA

Business as Usual
Britain's rule of the Seven Seas throughout the 19th Century, under the reign of Queen Victoria, left a touch of the customs and culture of the British Isles in every corner of the world. Today, the UK continues to make itself known and appreciated in a similar yet very different sense. Through its indigenous food.

Volume Sales support Innovation
The two countries in the world that generate the largest number of food innovations per annum, are the US and the UK. A major supportive factor of this risky activity is the critical mass of local consumers in each country, the revenue from which is sufficient to maintain the large R&D costs that are part of genuine and successful innovation.

The US has a population of ~280 million and a population density of 28 people per sq. km (ppsk). The UK has a population of ~60 million and a population density of 239 ppsk, the highest in the western world. (Note: Canada's is the lowest at 3 ppsk.!) High population density decreases distribution costs and maximizes the economies of scale of food retailing. The UK can exercise creative muscles and offer a diverse selection that challenges the notion of staid traditional British Food.

Food Imperialism
Today, organic cereals, Indian sauces, rich tomato chutneys and robust coffees represent Ôreal' British food. Moreover, how the British market their wares in foreign countries and gain market share is as important to success as the food itself. In the examples below, it is shown that British exporters may modify their product offerings to suit the tastes of local consumers. Or, slightly re-formulate to compensate for the differences in ingredients in local markets when the product is reconstituted.

Support local causes
W. Jordan's® cereals, manufactured in Britain since 1885, has an organic variety that occupies major market share in the organic cereals sector. Jordan's provides a price-reduction coupon that includes a donation to the Canadian chapter of the World Wildlife Fund, the logo of which is on every box of Jordan's cereal.
Strategy: align with local interests consistent with global positioning.

Maintain product standards
Taylors's of Harrogate export Yorkshire Gold Tea in a manner that ensures consistent taste worldwide. To do so, they select and analyze water samples from the foreign destination market, then re-formulate the Yorkshire Gold tea so as to render the brewed tea identical (or similar) to the way it tastes, looks and feels in the dales of Yorkshire.
Strategy: overcome local barriers that threaten product standards and market share.

Recognize distinction
Indian food is now considered as indigenous to Britain as peas and prime rib. Shere Khan Asian restaurants, originally of Manchester England and the largest of their kind in Europe, launched a retail line of curries, chutneys and sauces in September 2000. Highly acclaimed for their authentic Asian tastes and flavours by chefs and consumers of several nationalities, they are described as "the contemporary and convenient solution for busy people who want a meal in minutes".
Strategy: differentiate your product and advertise. FF

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