Summertime Musings

Posted: 17/08/2015


By the time you read this, I will hopefully be enjoying some Italian sunshine and food, washed down with a large glass of cool Pinot Grigio!   So what better time to let off some steam, particularly bearing in the mind the people who may recognise themselves may be away on holiday themselves, and might not read it.  Actually I am amazed quite how many people read my musings and rantings, so maybe I ought to be a little more careful in what I say, but maybe not, as they would become as dull as dishwater.

What better than to start with the weather.  At first I thought this summer’s weather wasn’t too bad, but then a couple of articles I read about how poor food sales had been this summer both made the point that we haven’t really had an extended period of weather long enough for people to plan a BBQ for the weekend, and it is those kind of events that pull through sales of many of the products found in our customer’s stores.  It has definitely not been a classic summer, but the colder summer has probably helped us smash our records for Christmas orders to go out later in the year. (more…)

The Living Wage

Posted: 04/08/2015


Every time I have picked up a trade magazine since the budget a few weeks’ ago, I have had to read articles written by business leaders moaning about the new government’s plans to introduce the “Living Wage” rather than the current “Minimum Wage” by 2020.  Let me put my cards on the table and say that we have always paid above the living wage even before it was on trend to do so, so we will be registering with the Living Wage Foundation to make this public.  But I have always looked around at the wages for a particular job within the area and ensured that we were paying around the average rate and more for those particularly talented individuals that we wanted to reward more.

I simply don’t understand why employers would want to do anything other than this for various reasons:

  • Surely paying people a living wage for the job they do makes for happier employees.  Happier employees generally do better work, therefore earning you more profit. (more…)

Funny - people, aren’t they?

Posted: 16/07/2015


Maybe I am getting old, or maybe I am just becoming a “grumpy old man”, but the longer I live this life, the more peculiar people seem to become!  Or perhaps I am a keener observer of people and can see through masks better than I used to.  Just a theory!  Last week we had our biennial Supplier’s Conference, and I was standing on the stage addressing 180 people I was thinking, including some Cotswold Fayre staff, we are a motley crew aren’t we?  That to some degree is the joy of being in this non-corporate sector – you really do see all shapes and sizes, metaphorically speaking, of course!

We tried a daring exercise, borrowed from others as all the best things are.  We grouped suppliers into groups of around 6 and supplied them with different coloured post-it notes.  On three different colours they were to tell us 1) What we should CONTINUE doing, 2) What we should STOP doing and 3) What we should START doing.  (more…)

Gourmet Africa


Gourmet Africa is the most authentic range of flavours to come from the exciting continent of Africa. These unique products are creating a food revolution from Africa by forging a brand new culinary frontier set to colonise the world of food.

The Gourmet Africa range will be available from April 2015. Taste the range of African BBQ sauces for yourself by visiting the Cotswold Fayre pavilion, stand R90G at the Farm Shop & Deli Show, NEC Birmingham, 20-22 April 2015.

Gourmet Africa

Christmas is Coming…

Christmas Is Coming

Well, Christmas is in full swing now at retailers and wholesalers throughout the UK.  Well, not quite, but we have received around 50% of our Christmas orders and there will be a flurry of orders between now and when the schools break up in a few weeks.  In fact in this job, I never manage to quite extract myself from thoughts of Christmas.  Quite sad really isn’t it!

We had our first planning meeting for Christmas this year on Monday 5th January, were planning the range throughout February and March, Christmas Sales Meeting in April and managing the team selling in Christmas and attending a few roadshows throughout the last few months.  Paradoxically once we draw closer to Christmas itself in September and our warehouse has to grow expandable walls, I am much less involved as our excellent operational team take over in despatching the orders to our customers. (more…)

Christmas is Coming…

Selling Strategy


A couple of comments this week from different quarters have caused me to think, and as I was with some retailers at the Association of Independent Stores Food Gift Show this week, generated some conversations there too.  The first was an e-mail from a long-standing customer in London to one of my Regional Account Managers basically saying in a nutshell:  “Thank you for all your service and products over the past 8 + years, but we have decided to change what we are doing, and are going to source products directly from Europe that are exclusive to us in London.  We love your products but we see them in other stores nearby, which you must be supplying, and don’t want to be the same as them.”

It was a much longer e-mail than that, but that was the gist of what they were saying.  I completely understand where they are coming from, and as they have 2-3 stores this strategy may work logistically for them.  (more…)

Selling Strategy

Work-Life Balance

I was on holiday recently which transitioned into a period of sickness, as coincidentally, I went down with malaria during the holiday, which must be connected to a previous trip to the children’s centre in Kenya earlier this year or even before. The doctors are certainly confused, and I have been extremely frustrated with my normal abundant energy being removed from me as my ravaged red blood cells recover.

Any holiday certainly gives time for reflection, which is why I have always ensured I have had plenty of time out. Apart from anything else others within the business have to pick up what I normally do, which can only have a positive effect on growth for the future. I remember talking to a supplier at our last Supplier Conference (next one coming up 6-7th July this year by the way) who seemed to enjoy telling me he hadn’t had a holiday in 10 years. Something has gone badly wrong there, I would suggest. (more…)

Work-Life Balance


There has been some talk recently in wholesaler circles about exclusivity.  To do it or not!  Sometimes wholesalers are portrayed as being dictator-like insisting on control and ultimately world domination.  Believe me, it is not quite like that!

Essentially there are two options for new brands within the speciality food world.  Go with and put all your energies behind one good wholesaler, or spread the business amongst several.  Both can work, but conditions apply for success.

The brands that are with a number of wholesalers that are growing and successful fall into two categories.  Either they are brands that were early into the speciality food sector that gained a good share of the market before it was as large and fragmented as it is now OR they are new brands with large investment  who have enough marketing power to gain traction in the market.  (more…)


There is no substitute for meeting people

After a couple of days at IFE, I am off to Dublin tomorrow for their triennial speed-dating event which puts 100s of buyers in meetings with 100s of Irish producers.  Organised by Bord Bia, it is always a highly productive event and helps towards the £9Billion Irish Food & Drink Export market.  If only one of the parties trying to be part of the incoming UK government had in their manifesto investing more in British Food & Drink Exports.  There is, of course, some money available via UKTI but the amounts involved are paltry compared to what other European governments invest in exporting their country’s food and drink to the world.

However, not all this cash is well spent.  I made the mistake on Sunday morning at IFE of stumbling into the Algerian and Moroccan area of the IFE “Walk the World” area.  It was too dark, there were one or two packets of product on the stands and hardly any exhibitors.  At first I wondered whether a plane from North Africa had been delayed.  (more…)

There is no substitute for meeting people

The Importance of a Marketing Strategy

It’s show-time, folks.  The biennial IFE Show at Excel takes place next weekend onwards for 4 days followed a month later by the Farm Shop & Deli Show, and I am currently in Athens at the second ever Food Expo Greece – disappointingly cold here though!  When selecting products at these shows I am trying to put myself in the shoes of our retail customers.  Of course, no good for us to select products which our customers don’t also love.  It is difficult to put into words, and sometimes you just know you have found a winner.  Most products though need further research on how much the producer is able to support the retailer, with sampling stock, tastings, promotions and whether they have a marketing budget to build their brand.

It amazes me sometimes, how many companies in the speciality food sector aren’t following a strategy in their routes to market.  They simply sell their product to anyone that asks, sometimes at an unsustainable price, and occasionally even where their wholesalers have created the desire for the brand.  (more…)

The Importance of a Marketing Strategy