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10/03/17 Retailers growing at fastest rate since 2014   Supermarket sales are growing at the fastest rate in three years, new figures from Kantar Worldpanel indicate. Grocers saw sales rise by a total of 2.3 per cent in the 12 weeks to 26 February, compared to the year before. Like-for-like inflation has doubled in a month to reach 1.4 per cent, with staples such as butter, tea and fish all increasing by more than five per cent in the past quarter. However that has been balanced out by prices falling across a number of categories, including crisps, bacon and eggs. In terms of the supermarkets, Morrisons is growing ahead of the market at 2.6 per cent – it’s fastest growth in five years – on the back of a solid bricks-and-mortar performance backed by rapid expansion of its e-commerce business. Tesco increased its sales for the sixth period in a row, while Asda, despite being the only retailer to see sales fall, had its best performance since November 2014 after a 0.8 per cent decline.   10/03/17 Double success for Booths’ own brand   Booths has won two design awards for its own-label ranges at the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards 2017. The supermarket collected both awards in the Food and Drug Retailers category, winning gold for its redeveloped Booths brand, and silver for its tongue-in-cheek slogan bags. The awards recognise examples of design which have had a tangible effect upon business success, and Booths’ marketing director Julie Mills said both redeveloped ranges – which were produced together with creative partners Smith & Village – had resulted in a sharp increase in sales. Mills said: “We have placed great emphasis on reinvigorating our Booths brand in the last two years and our customers have loved the new ranges. The great sales we have enjoyed since developing it show that our customers trust Booths brand to be synonymous with excellence, provenance and value, and are choosing our products over other household names.”   09/03/17 FDF welcomes Budget announcement   The Food & Drink Federation has welcomed Philip Hammond’s support for productivity and innovation in the Budget. Ian Wright, director general at the FDF, said the Chancellor’s commitment to improving productivity, boost R&D and help bridge the skills gap was a positive development, and also welcomed news of how the £4.7 billion National Productivity Investment Fund will be spent on science and innovation. However he said there were still a number of areas of concern, including the industry’s opposition to the sugar tax. He added: “Access to a skilled workforce is particularly pressing for food and drink manufacturing as we require an additional 130,000 new recruits by 2024. It is important that food and drink manufacturing as a sector is fully recognised in the new technical qualifications and we look forward to being closely involved in their implementation.”   08/03/17 Heston’s Eggstraordinary creation unveiled   Waitrose has unveiled details of Heston Blumenthal’s Easter creation – The Heston from Waitrose Eggstraordinary Dippy Easter Egg. The real-looking, extra-large hen egg includes mini eggs filled with fleur de sel caramel and edible soil. Waitrose explained that once the outer shell is cracked, a nest of mini eggs which resemble British blue bird eggs, complete with a soft salted caramel centre, are revealed. An edible soil of caramelised cocoa nibs, freeze-dried passionfruit and creamy white chocolate flakes represents the soil for the rich chocolate. It will be available in stores and online from mid-March, priced at £20. Waitrose chocolate developer Rebecca Neale said: “This year's Heston from Waitrose Easter egg is unique. If you’re a chocolate lover who wants to explore new flavours and textures, then this is the egg for you. The fruity character of the dark chocolate complements the passionfruit in the soil, and the 65 per cent cocoa used to make the egg makes for a truly rich chocolatey treat. It's pure indulgence and would be the perfect gift this Easter.”   07/03/17 Sainsbury’s claims first place in Jersey Royal race   Sainsbury’s claims to have won the race to be first to stock much-coveted Jersey Royal potatoes this year. The supermarket said that thanks to a milder winter, the premium potatoes hit stores on 8 March – a week earlier than the year before. Sainsbury’s is selling the products loose at £2.50 per kilo, with availability rising during the season with the addition of 500g and 1kg packs. It expects to sell a total of more than four million kilos over the course of the short season. Potato buyer Elaine Serra said: “It’s great news that we’re able to kick start the Jersey Royal season and due to the warmer weather over the winter it’s a whole week earlier than last year. As with all Sainsbury’s products it’s important that we only sell Jersey Royals when they’re at their best so despite it being earlier in the year we’re sure the potatoes will taste as good as ever.”
16/05/17 Aldi opens £60m distribution hub Aldi has opened a new £60 million distribution centre in Cardiff as it continues to accelerate its store-opening programme. The new facility is the discounter’s ninth in the UK, and at 46,000 sq m is the size of 11 football pitches. It will serve Aldi stores across Wales and south- west England, with the creation of 400 jobs. It comes as Aldi opened its 700th store, in Whitstable, Kent, on its drive to reach 1,000 UK stores by 2022. The business is investing over £450m this year to increase capacity across the country. Chief executive Matthew Barnes said: “During the last five years we have invested £1.7 billion in new stores and distribution centres to bring Aldi to the 14m customers that now regularly shop with us. “But there are many more potential customers who don’t shop at Aldi because there isn’t a store near where they live. We want to change this by having a store in every major town and city across Britain.” 15/05/17 Tesco launches ‘food waste hotline’ Tesco has launched a ‘food waste hotline’ aimed at helping suppliers and growers identify food waste hotspots. The ‘hotline’, which is accessible via the supermarket’s online Supplier Network, is being established as a link between the 5,000 businesses that use the system and Tesco’s product teams. When alerted to a problem area, Tesco says it will take action to address it. By way of example, Tesco cited last summer’s warmer weather resulting in the strawberry crop all ripening at the same time. Its response was to take the whole crop and introduce large boxes of strawberries in store at an affordable price, reducing food waste on farm. Matt Simister, commercial director for fresh food and commodities, said: “At Tesco, we have no time for waste, and we are committed to reducing food waste wherever it occurs, from farm to fork. “The ‘food waste hotline’ is another little help we are making to achieve this with our suppliers. It helps our suppliers gain direct, easy access to our product teams, and this will enable us to identify food waste hotspots and systemic issues and work in partnership to tackle them.” 15/05/17 Industry seeks swift resolution on Irish trade Thirty-five food and drink industry bodies have come together to lobby the government to make an early trade agreement with Ireland. With the Irish Republic set to be the UK’s only land border with the EU following Brexit, and a fifth of this country’s food and drink exports going to the country and a third of Ireland’s going the other way, the trade route is crucial to the food and drink sector. Signatories to a letter directed at Prime Minister Theresa May include the bosses of the Food & Drink Federation, British Retail Consortium, British Soft Drinks Association, Dairy UK and many others. They wrote: “A cliff-edge scenario that results in a sudden transformation to our trading arrangements with Ireland would be hugely damaging for our industry and for the wider economy on both sides of the border.” In the event that new customs requirements cannot be avoided, continuity and predictability for business must be a priority, the organisations wrote. “Government would need to evaluate the administrative and regulatory requirements and put in place robust plans to deliver transitional arrangements that minimise disruption and provide sufficient time to allow businesses to adapt.” 14/05/17 Food and drink spend on the decline British households are spending less money on food and drink, a new survey has revealed. Defra’s Family Food 2015 report examined household shopping and eating habits, and found that in 2015 the percentage of spend on food and non-alcoholic drinks for the average UK household was 10.7 per cent, continuing a downward trend since 2012. Between 2007 and 2015, household spending on food and drink fell 6.3 per cent, while eating out expenditure rose by 2.4 per cent. Spending on alcoholic drinks for household consumption fell by 5.8 per cent over the same period, while alcoholic drinks for consumption outside the home dropped 4.7 per cent. Purchases of household foods including milk and cream, meat and meat products, potatoes and bread have also been in decline over a three-year period, though fresh fruit sales have been rising since 2011. The report also stated that total energy intake from all food and drink is on a long downward trend, but intake of all vitamins and minerals except potassium have reached at least 100 per cent of the recommended minimum Reference Nutrient Intake. Salt intake, meanwhile, is on a long-term downward trend, but is still above recommended levels. 13/05/17 New president for Ice Cream Alliance Trade body the Ice Cream Alliance has announced Maggie Rush as its new president. Rush, a director of York-based Graham’s Ices, has worked in the ice cream business for 30 years and will now be working with companies across the country and campaigning to protect the quality of UK product. She said: “It’s going to be an interesting year as the path towards Brexit unfolds. We will be keeping an eye on potential changes to food regulations and legislation and lobbying government to ensure regulations are in place that protect the quality and integrity of ice cream.” The Ice Cream Alliance represents more than 530 businesses in Britain and Ireland involved in the manufacturing, retail and catering of ice cream and related products.
24/03/17 Morrisons optimises replenishment system   Morrisons has been working with AI specialist Blue Yonder to optimise replenishment and automate ordering of 26,000 ambient and long-life SKUs, the companies announced this week. The Blue Yonder Replenishment Optimisation technology, which is being applied in all 491 of Morrisons’ stores, automatically analyses sales data and other data sources from the supermarket and combines that with external information such as weather forecasts and public holidays. The system then predicts the level of demand down to the individual product and store location, before automatically ordering by store and by product. It uses cloud technology, and learns as it goes to reduce the time spent on manual goods ordering. The system now automates over 13 million ordering decisions per day. Morrisons’ chief executive David Potts said in the retailer’s recent results announcement: “Our biggest new initiative has been our new automated ordering system. The system is capital light, utilising cloud technology and store-specific historic sales data to forecast stock requirements. It is reducing costs and stock levels, while also saving time for colleagues, and providing a better offer for customers.”   23/03/17 Warm weather lines get a boost at Waitrose   Warmer weather has driven up sales of fresh produce and other spring favourites at Waitrose. The start of spring – despite inconsistent weather – has given a boost to traditionally warmer-temperature foods, according to the supermarket’s retail director Ben Stimson. He reported that in the week to 14 March, fresh fruit and vegetable sales, as well as those of lighter-eating products, performed well. Raspberries were up 38 per cent on the same week last year, with prepared fruit up 29 per cent and salad up 11 per cent. Daffodil sales rose by 56 per cent. Stimson also said that gluten and dairy-free lines saw good growth, with sales of its ‘free-from’ range up 135 per cent.   23/03/17 Flat Q4 sales for Sainsbury’s   Sainsbury’s has reported largely static fourth-quarter sales, but claimed it is making good progress against key priorities. Total retail sales excluding fuel rose by 0.1 per cent in the nine weeks to 11 March, with like-for- like sales falling 0.5 per cent. Group like-for-like sales were up 0.3 per cent thanks to a 4.3 per cent uplift at Argos. Chief executive Mike Coupe said: “We are pleased with this performance and are making good progress against our key priorities. Customers appreciate the quality and value of our differentiated food offer and our Tu clothing brand performed ahead of the market, with sales up five per cent.” Elsewhere in the trading update, Coupe reported that Sainsbury’s is expanding its ‘Waste less, Save more’ initiative to more than 140 city boroughs, towns and villages, and has invested in a new Bakery College in Bromley-by-Bow to help train and develop its in-store bakers.   22/03/17 Meat scandal underlines need for right deals, says NFU   The Brazilian rotten meat scandal underlines the importance of establishing trade deals that uphold the high standards of British production, according to the NFU. Leading producers in the South American country are under investigation for passing off rotten meat as fresh, and the farmers’ union said it served as a warning that post-Brexit, deals mustn’t undermine the drive for product safety. “Trade agreements with countries across the globe must be balanced, with the same conditions applying to food imports and exports,” said NFU president Meurig Raymond. “Protecting the standards adhered to by British farmers and the transparency across the supply chain is essential for the public, who want to buy safe and traceable food.” Raymond pointed to surveys stating 86 per cent of shoppers wanted to buy more British food, adding that trade deals entered into post-Brexit must ensure that British farming remains profitable, competitive and productive.   21/03/17 Shoppers call for better tech to aid food waste fight   Shoppers would like access to better technology to help them tackle food waste, new research has indicated. Some 22 per cent of respondents to an IGD survey said they would like technology to help with food waste reduction, while 18 per cent wanted better in-store navigation, 15 per cent were keen on one-hour delivery and nine per cent called for technology’s help with sourcing product information. The research found that the number of shoppers saying they have a useful food and grocery app on their phone has dropped from 40 per cent in 2014 to 34 per cent in 2016. Over four in 10 shoppers (43 per cent) are currently purchasing food and groceries online and nearly a third (28 per cent) are interested in using a voice-activated device at home to add items to an online basket.