October 06, 2005

The power of advertising

Nick Dymoke Marr from Stormhoek distributor, Orbital Wines, just emailed me this great link from The Guardian. It seems that since the "Try something different today" advert aired two weeks ago, sales of nutmeg have soared:

In the week following the launch of the advert, weekly sales of jars of whole nutmeg rose from 1,400 to 6,000. Because some folk are too lazy to grate it themselves, sales of the ground spice have also more than doubled to 4,500 jars a week. Demand is so high, Sainsbury's has ordered two years' worth of stock (nine tonnes) and has sent buyers to scour the world.

Checkout magazine confirms the story. I bet Peter Ward, Sainsbury's nutmeg buyer, never expected to see his name in lights. I wonder how he is coping with this exposure?

There's no word yet on whether this increase in demand for nutmeg is matched by increased sales across the board, but, at the very least, the campaign is rousing some dormant cooks.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on October 6, 2005 at 11:04 AM in Food, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

Try something new today

Try something new today.

That's Sainsbury's new slogan as reported by The Guardian. I confess, my kneejerk reaction was what the hell does that mean? But I was delighted to read this (emphasis mine):

The new slogan was developed after research showed that customers wanted supermarkets to help them with simple but effective recipe ideas.

A central plank of the strategy is for Jamie Oliver's cooking hints and tips to be sampled by all of Sainsbury's 153,000 employees so they can share their knowledge and ideas with customers.

Bigger stores will also offer samples of new products and ideas to shoppers.

Good Lord - it's as if they have been reading 173 all along! Emphasis on the food. Staff trained accordingly. Leadership for people who want to change their eating habits. And perhaps even a slogan aimed at those of us who say, "I would like to eat better / more variety / healthier."

If other people experience the same initial reaction to the slogan as I, or if the implementation of the strategy is botched, then the store may continue to have problems. But if JS can raise quality and logistics to Waitrose levels, then this training idea could make Sainsbury's definitively the best food supermarket, and I think that is tremendous news.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on September 19, 2005 at 02:55 PM in Food, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

September 09, 2005

Sainsbury's farmers' market mash up

James Governor's comment about his local Fresh and Wild got me thinking. The best thing about it, he said, is the farmers' market across the road. It's a similar story in New York, apparently, where a flagship Whole Foods has opened next to the Greenmarket:

It began congenially enough, however, with the new upscale supermarket donating $8,900 to the Greenmarket as the first of four annual “5% days,” when 5 percent of a day’s profit goes to a local nonprofit organization.

Whole Foods spokesperson Fred Shank draws the image of shoppers carrying Whole Foods bags at the Greenmarket, and Greenmarket bags in Whole Foods.

It’s not only shoppers crossing over — mixing open-air with subterranean, small bags with shopping carts, hand-wrapped with prepackaged — but purveyors as well. Shank points out that the Whole Foods prepared food team checks out the Greenmarket every week for fresh ingredients; and products from Greenmarket regulars, like Ronnybrook farms and Bread Alone, can be found on the new chain store’s shelves. Planners expected the new Whole Foods to bring more people to the area, and folks from the Greenmarket, as well as the new store, say it seems to have done so.

This crossover of buyers between farmers' market and supermarket got me thinking about Sainsbury's new focus on organic food. The SO range is a fantastic development - could Sainsbury's solidify its organic credentials by working with existing farmers' markets? Even help set up new ones? It sounds counter-intuitive - why would Sainsbury's work with their "competitors?" - but I think there would be benefits.

The consumer would gain increased choice of fresh, local produce, while still having the convenience of a "one stop shop." The farmers would get access to Sainsbury's locations and customers. Sainsbury's would gain credibility as supporters of local organic farming, further distinguishing itself from Tesco and Asda. The total market for organic produce would grow and Sainsbury's would be the focus of that growth, supplying that expanded market on the days that the farmers are not in town. Sainsbury's might even consider guaranteeing the farmers' sales for the day, and take any surplus for resale after the farmers go home, or for donation to local community projects and charities. The whole thing might even provide what commenter Paul Goodison calls edutainment.

What do you think?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on September 9, 2005 at 08:41 AM in Food | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 07, 2005

Sainsbury's needs simple systems and empowered staff

Several times this summer, we have returned milk to Sainsbury's which was within its sell by date, but which had turned to yoghurt within a day or two of purchase and periodically we return various cheeses. This doesn't happen to the milk or cheese we buy from Marks & Spencer or from Tesco. I hadn't thought much about this until I read this article last month: Sainsbury's fined over rancid milk

The rancid milk, still on the shelf 23 days after it should have been drunk was deemed "unfit for human consumption".

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's said: "It's extremely rare for something like this to occur.

"The store sells 120,000 fresh products a week and we have elaborate systems in place for checking that all our products are well within the label dates and that out-dated stock is cleared from our stores every day.

This may well be an isolated incident, but I think I can guess at two ways this kind of problem develops.

First, why does JS have an "elaborate system" where surely a simple system would suffice?

Second, for a simple system to work, Sainsbury's has to employ staff who care about food and customer service, and give those staff the authority to take action the second a problem is brought to their attention. I told a member of staff last week that the chicken I wanted to buy was past its sell by date, he replied "you need to speak to Customer Services about that" before going about his business. The chicken, it seems, was in someone else's section.

I have no idea how Tesco or Asda compare, but if Sainsbury's wants to have any credibility as a food focused store, I believe simple systems and empowered staff are high on the list of requirements.

Have you had problems with freshness at your local Sainsbury's?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on September 7, 2005 at 12:31 PM in Food, People | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 04, 2005

Sainsbury's: where good wine costs less

I don't know what Andrew makes of this, but the Observer says:

2004 Sainsbury's Classic Selection Vintage Claret (£5.49, Sainsbury's)
Claret under £6 is often rather challenging, but this is a huge step up from the same supermarket's basic Bordeaux. It's fragrant, grassy and elegant with little or no oak and plenty of refreshing plum and cassis fruit.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on September 4, 2005 at 12:00 PM in Food, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2005

Sainsbury's gets its organic act together

This is great news from The Independent on 28 August:

J Sainsbury will today unveil a multi-million-pound shake-up of its organic range, the latest thrust in attempts by its chief executive, Justin King, to turn the supermarket chain around.

Sainsbury's, which is struggling to lure back customers lost to rivals such as Tesco and Waitrose, is adding 100 new products to its rebranded SO Organic range. Prices will also be slashed on a quarter of products, which include Welsh lamb, milk, eggs, wine, cheese, fruit and vegetables. A spokeswoman said the organic market in the UK was growing at around 15 per cent a year, and accounted for an increasing proportion of the retailer's own sales.

On my way to my local Sainsbury's yesterday, I noticed a billboard announcing a substantial price cut on free range organic eggs. Great news. This is the first time I have noticed a really substantial price cut on any item that I buy regularly from Sainsbury's.

What a canny move. Not only is the organic market growing, Sainsbury's is the first of the big three supermarkets to really make a song and dance about its organic range. At last: distinction, instead of more "me too" marketing.

My gut feeling is that it will take a little time for this strategy to pay off. There is a perception, after all, that organic is very much more expensive than non-organic, so it will take a while for the "organic is cheaper at Sainsbury's" message to sink in, especially among shoppers who have previously avoided organic because of cost. Let's hope Sainsbury's holds its nerve and continues to invest in this strategy, whatever the initial results.

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on September 3, 2005 at 11:41 PM in Food, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 20, 2005

The dormant demand for jam sugar... and leadership

Pei has just made a batch of homemade jam - giving the surplus away to friends. Damn civilised, don't you think? Justin King says Sainsbury's is focusing on food, but it was discounter Asda that stocked the vital ingredient. Sainsbury's came up short.

The wider question goes to the slow death of traditional cooking skills - like making one's own jam. Is this what we want? I don't always make everything from scratch, but I like to, as does everyone I know. We wish to do more cooking than we do. We feel a pull towards the slow food way of doing things, but the lure of convenience is always there. Perhaps by appealing to our better selves - you want to cook; here, let us show you how - Sainsbury's could really awaken this dormant demand. When I say Sainsbury's could take a lead in UK food culture, this is what I mean.

For example, why not host cookery classes in its stores? Of course, the store offers recipe cards, but they are dumped on a rack at the end of the aisle in a "take it or leave it" fashion. Is that food-focus? A real live person doing small lessons throughout the day on something seasonal - like making jam - would be much more of an attention grabber, and much more likely to rouse the dormant cook in all of us.

No, making jam is not as convenient or as cheap as buying a jar, but here's the thing: Tesco and Asda pretty much own convenient and cheap, so why don't Sainsbury's work on building a whole new market?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 20, 2005 at 11:34 AM in Food | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 15, 2005

Wine blogging

Jancis Robinson has a blog! Fine Writing on Fine Wines is its name, and Ms Robinson has the inside scoop on Sainsbury's drinks festival:

Sainsbury's have their Drinks Festival from Wednesday 17 aug until 13 sep which includes quite substantial reductions on organic wines but lots of other bargains besides. These are the best bets I can see:

  • Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rose 2004 £6.99 down to £4.99
  • Campaneo Garnacha £5.99 down to £2.99
  • Tabali Cabernet Sauvignon £6.99 down to £4.99

    Wine blogging might be a good way for Sainsbury's to dip a toe into blogging waters. There are lots of wine blogs out there - Wine Blog Watch provides a list. All it would take would be for a Sainsbury's wine buyer to post his or her tasting notes. I would read that, wouldn't you?

    Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 15, 2005 at 12:13 PM in Food | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Gently agitate product

    From a Technorati search on Sainsbury's: How to Make Bangers and Mash:

    The following are the directly transcribed instructions on a bowl of Sainsbury's Bangers and Mash...

    3. Gently agitate product...

    Gently agitate product?  What am I meant to do, poke it in an annoying fashion? Imply that it's mother was a hen and it's father was a carrot?

    Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 15, 2005 at 11:43 AM in Food, Retail is detail | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    August 11, 2005

    What do we think of Fresh and Wild?

    Good questions from Silverbrow on food: is Fresh and Wild just like Sainsbury's, but with higher prices?

    On the one hand these stores are little more than supermarkets with the same profit imperatives as the mainstream retailers, on the other they have this slightly grating tendency towards right-on attitudes.

    I would have assumed these two traits are mutually exclusive, the success of Whole Foods would imply otherwise. I would be interested to know just what suppliers think of them, whether they're really any better or worse than a Tesco or Sainsbury's. I also think it would be interesting for someone to look into the real level of choice they offer us. Are the products they stock significantly different from the "Best of" ranges so favoured by (UK) supermarkets? It's also interesting that the two markets where these Organic Supermarkets seem to succeed are the US and UK, both of which lack the European market tradition and have a heavy reliance on supermarkets.

    PS Silverbrow has a nice list of links to food blogs, but a are US-based. Come on UK food bloggers, make yourself known and I will link to you from 173.

    Posted by Adrian Trenholm on August 11, 2005 at 03:04 PM in Food, Marketing | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack