Now in its sixth year, Caribbean Food Week is a big opportunity to appeal to shoppers that regularly buy Caribbean cuisine and introduce new customers to it. Chris Dillon speaks to London retailer Wasim Khaliq to find out why you should get involved and how you can drive sales.

Why get involved?

If you’re a retailer in any major city or place with a large Caribbean population, then August 21 could be a busy week for sales.

That’s the case for Wasim Khaliq, owner of Amboria Supermarket in Walthamstow, east London. For the past 30 years, the store has specialised in African and Caribbean food, building a reputation with the area’s diverse community. “Our sales are high during Caribbean Food Week. Sales and footfall increase by 25-30%,” he says. “We advertise on social media and word-of-mouth plays a large part, too.”

The event was launched in 2012 by Grace Foods and has grown with the demand over the years. Nyree Chambers, head of marketing at Grace Foods, says: “Caribbean food is growing. There are more restaurants popping up around the country, so jump on the bandwagon. There’s money to be made.”

The event can be a great way to appeal to your community and stand out from the competition. “We’ve been doing this for years and have the reputation for these foods,” explains Khaliq.

“It’s important that we keep reminding shoppers of what we do, especially at this time
of year.”

What should I stock?

Make sure you are stocking lines that have wide appeal. If you are new to Caribbean Food Week, start with two shelves of popular products like chilli sauces, jerk seasonings and plantain chips.

“We sell a lot of fresh produce and Grace sauces, because it’s summer and a lot of people are doing barbecues,” says Khaliq.

If your aim is to introduce Caribbean food to your shoppers, then you need to promote two or three meals that they can cook at home. “If you’re stocking jerk seasonings, make sure you are encouraging them to buy the meat,” says Chambers.

It’s important to stock products that have wide appeal, as well as the bestselling brands in the category. “Grace is one of the biggest Caribbean food companies in the market. Everyone knows them and the quality they offer. They can be more expensive than others, but we want a reputation for selling great products,” says Khaliq.

Grace is visiting eight Bestway and Dhamecha cash & carries around London between August 14 and 24 to run food demonstrations and introduce offers to retailers, so if you are looking for a guide on what to stock, speaking to reps is a great place to start.

How do I bring shoppers in?

Caribbean Food Week is a fantastic excuse to bring excitement to your shop. Once you have decided on your range, you should make sure you merchandise it so it is unmissable.

You only have one week to drive sales, so you should pull out all the stops.

“We bring the Caribbean foods to the front of the store and put up posters. Our range of interesting fresh produce grabs peoples’ attention,” says Khaliq.

He also teams up with suppliers to run tasting sessions and his strong partnerships enable him to offer great prices. “We run a lot of offers and even sell some items at cost price just to get people in. That encourages people who aren’t Caribbean to give them a try,” he says.

You should create a display of Caribbean food lines in your shop and promote it with PoS. “Having a display captures your shoppers’ imaginations. Have Dunn’s River Coconut Milk, which can be used with rice and peas, jerk barbecue sauce or seasonings, then a selection of drinks and chilli sauces,” says Chambers.

“Don’t give consumers with too much choice if they are discovering something new.”