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My flatmate Michael and I were having a cup of tea on Saturday morning when he excitedly began to tell me about a local sandwich bar which has opened up nearby, just off the Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park, North London.
His sandwich, involving salt beef and sauerkraut along with some other forgotten ingredients, attracted much praise, but it was something else that really stood out for him:
“They serve the sandwiches with freshly-fried crisps!” he said, very impressed.
It was a moment I’d been expecting, if I’m honest, for five years – ever since I last visited Chicago in 2010. There, I had been offered freshly-fried ‘chips’ (a linguistic handicap seems to stop our American cousins from pronouncing or spelling this staple snack with the requisite “cr” and “sp”) in almost every burger and hot dog joint in town.
Having seen many of my favourite American food stuffs (gourmet burgers, Reeces Pieces, Sriracha hot chili sauce, trail mix, Brooklyn Lager, wasabi peas and much more) steadily migrate in the years after I’d studied there from 2007 to 2008, it was inevitable that the day would come when this equally-delicious trend would gain a foothold in the UK.
This week’s news from Diageo – new flavours and formats for key brands – holds a similar pattern. Ciroc Pineapple and Captain Morgan White Rum have been launched first in America, with Smirnoff Ice Double Black getting success in Australia, South Africa and South Korea before arriving in the UK. Find out more in this week’s issue of Retail Newsagent.
Elsewhere in the magazine, Spar’s Debbie Robinson lauds James Brundle’s east London Spar store for becoming the UK’s first convenience store to serve beer and wine to customers who wish to eat a hot snack on the premises. Just under a year ago, however, I was in Durham, North Carolina having the very same experience in a local store. In Portland, too, the wonderful Otto’s Deli served beer and root beer to have with your freshly-made hot dog barbecued outside the store.
Even in Germany, it’s not uncommon to find a place to sit outside a store where you can enjoy the beer you’ve just bought while chatting with friends.
Indeed, look at most of the innovations happening in convenience and you can almost always find an example of another market where it’s already established.
This isn’t to say that the UK convenience and FMCG markets are behind the curve, or can’t teach other markets a thing or two – we’ve got to get the Americans pronouncing ‘crisps’ properly, for one thing. More seriously, the way in which the UK sector – thanks to wholesaler pricemarking and retailer/government collaboration among other things – is making fresh healthy food available to people of all classes and incomes is truly world class.
Yet, just as, for the common good, RN readers are used to sharing their best practice, insights and innovations between themselves through our pages each week, retailers who are passionate about bringing something new to their customers need to get ready to share their knowledge internationally.
What you get in return could be an idea that will transform your business.