High Street Food Retail – Is Artisan the New Norm?

31 May 2016 By Charles Manners

Over the past few years we have seen continuous changes on the high street, which directly influence university catering offers setting students and staff expectations. The key trend we see as catering consultants driving this change is the consumer’s interest in self health and a willingness to experiment, and pay higher prices for premium, authentic and artisan products. Though this trend is not new, what is now firmly established is how the consumer needs are being addressed by the high street operators.

There is also a much greater interest in food. The broad support for the recently announced sugar tax which was originally championed by Jamie Oliver is another example of the health issue moving up both the social and political agenda.

It was fascinating to hear from Clive Schlee; Pret A Manger’s Chief Executive in his company blog, stating: “Ten years ago, Pret’s granary sandwiches made up nearly 30% of our sales – in 2016 they will account for less than 10%. They have been replaced by a variety of new and less bready products – protein pots, grain salads, cold-pressed juices, flat whites, macaroni cheese, porridge and most recently, 12 gluten and dairy-free soups. Research reveals that the UK alternative sandwich market (i.e filled snacks made from pittas, thins, wraps etc rather than slices of bread), has grown by 15 per cent in the past year.

A visit to a Pret, Leon Itsu  or Abokado amongst a number of chains will show products that include; Brie & Pesto Bloomer  on white & rye bloomer bread; ; superfuit salad; Egg & Spinach Protein Pot; and for drinks  Pomegranate & Hibiscus, Beet Beautiful with apple, carrot, beetroot & ginger; Meaner Green with apple, Romaine lettuce, cumber, spinach,celery, basil & lime.

The new Costa Coffee Fresco site (converted Costa Store) on London’s Tottenham Court Road aims to capitalise on the blurring of the lines between coffee shops and grab and go outlets, whilst using Costa’s heritage and strong brand. The food capture rate is 60-70% at its Fresco trial site versus the 42% Costa estate average, and Costa hope that a fresher / healthier range will boost lunch trade where Costa is traditionally weak. Currently, Costa’s food offer is oriented to sweet treats and centrally produced paninis, and it underperforms on food in the key lunchtime day part, and is missing out on the trend to more freshly-made and healthier food.

The challenge smaller operators have is to produce many of these products requires a highly mechanised and standardised approach, but self-developed product development which has energy and excitement can be as if not more effective. The new message is that ‘artisan is the new norm’!

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