Welcome to our 'weekly news in brief', covering the latest from UK retailers and manufacturers.
Morrisons ramps up help for NHS workers and vulnerable shoppers
Morrisons has introduced a raft of new measures to support NHS workers and vulnerable consumers during the coronavirus pandemic as part of its ongoing mission to ‘Feed Britain’. The supermarket is offering a 10% discount for all NHS workers to support them during the outbreak that will come into effect tomorrow. The discount will last until 12 July, when it will be reviewed. Morrisons already offers an NHS shopping hour to help key workers get hold of the groceries they need, which runs every day from 6am to 7am and 9am to 9.30am on Sundays. The supermarket also operates a click-and-collect NHS food box service. Already available at 22 hospitals, the service allows NHS workers to collect their shopping from hospital car parks rather than coming into store.
In addition, the supermarket is rolling out a dedicated telesales shopping service aimed specifically at helping vulnerable and elderly people – who in many cases may be self-isolating – to get the groceries they need. These customers will be able to place orders with Morrisons over the phone and the delivery will be made the following day by a member of staff from their local store.
Vulnerable shoppers can choose from a ‘takeaway’ menu of 47 essential groceries including milk, butter, eggs, potatoes, pasta, bananas, cornflakes and flour. They can then pay for delivery on their doorstep via a mobile chip and pin device or refuse an item on delivery should they wish to.
Morrisons Community Champions – staff dedicated to work in the community – will also be identifying customers who need support and offering them help via a postcard through their door. Customers can then ring the employee directly if they need their shopping delivered. To make this service possible, the supermarket has invested in a van for each of its 494 stores.
“We are playing our full part in feeding the nation and ensuring those that are most in need can receive a delivery from a familiar face at Morrisons,” says chief executive David Potts. “This new telephone service will ensure that more people who can’t leave their home to go shopping will be able to get a delivery.”
Aldi launches first online grocery service delivering food parcels
Discounter Aldi has made its first foray into the online grocery market, offering food parcels on its website for vulnerable customers during the coronavirus pandemic. The grocer said the parcels will be available for home delivery from tomorrow and would contain 22 products including tinned soup, rice and pasta. Each pack will also contain antibacterial handwash and a four-pack of toilet roll. The parcels will only be available to order on Aldi’s website and will retail for £24.99 including delivery and are limited to one per customer.
While the discounter has sold wines and other non-food items online in the past, the parcels are its first-ever online grocery delivery service. Aldi managing director for corporate responsibility Fritz Walleczek said: “We are committed to providing quick, safe and affordable access to food for all our customers and understand that, for some, visiting one of our stores is not an option at the moment.
“We’re constantly looking for new and better ways to support our customers in these uncertain times and I’m hopeful that these food parcels will make life a little easier for some of the country’s most at-risk people.”
Aldi follows the likes of Morrisons and Marks & Spencer that have also made pre-packed food parcels available for home delivery since the UK’s coronavirus lockdown began.
Waitrose rolls out initiatives to support vulnerable suppliers
Waitrose is launching a series of initiatives that aim to support its most vulnerable suppliers in the UK and overseas during the coronavirus outbreak. These include providing financial aid to global farming communities with funds focused on the most vulnerable countries within the supermarkets’ food supply chain. Waitrose is also promising quicker payments to the most vulnerable suppliers, while reinforcing its commitment to support small British producers in areas such as meat and dairy.
The retailer stated that it continues to pay fair prices, work hand in hand with its farmers, and support sales of UK produce , including promotions across key categories. Waitrose’s buying teams are said to be working on a daily basis with the many family-run businesses that provide local produce to its stores. It is aiming to ensure that the most vulnerable suppliers are included in key decision -making processes and continue to have a platform to sell their products.
Meanwhile, Waitrose has partnered with other retailers to help finance a series of webinars with global food suppliers. The webinars include talks from a variety of experts across the UK’s food retail industry to provide education and learnings on topics such as social distancing, furloughing and transport & accommodation.
Waitrose is also continuing support to farming bodies and charities in the UK. It stated that its teams were actively engaged with several working groups, including retailers, key farming organisations such as the NFU and other stakeholders. Rupert Thomas, Director of Food & Grocery at Waitrose, commented: “The John Lewis Partnership was founded on the principle that we have a responsibility to others and that we must treat people fairly, which extends to our Partners, customers, suppliers and the communities that we trade with, including those outside of the UK.
“This pandemic poses the greatest humanitarian and economic threat of our generation and, whilst we face many difficult decisions, as a collective industry we must continue to look at ways we can help to protect people and their livelihoods during this unprecedented time. The measures we have put in place are just the start and we will continue to do everything we can to provide support to our suppliers and the people who form part of them, particularly those that are most vulnerable.”
Shops suffer worst fall ever as lockdown bites
Retail sales fell at their fastest rate on record last month. Total sales were down by 4.3% in March, compared with a 1.8% decline in the same month last year, according to KPMG and the British Retail Consortium. It was the worst drop since records began in 1995. However, the retail consortium warned that the true scale of the drop was likely to have been much worse.
Its report covered the five weeks between March 1 and April 4. Sales rose by 12% before the government imposed the lockdown on March 23. After that, they fell by 27%. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the consortium, said: “The retail industry is at the epicentre and the tremors will be felt for a long while yet. Many physical non-food retailers have been forced to shut down entirely or to limit themselves to online -only to protect customers and staff. “Consequently, hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk within these companies and their supply chains.”
Online sales rose during the period, but it was not enough to offset the slump on the high street. Sales of non -food items on the internet increased by 18.8% in March, up from 2.5% in March last year and below the 12 -month average growth rate of 4.4%.
Grocery sales held up as consumers prioritised spending on essential items. In the three months to the end of March, food sales rose by 5.1%, above the 12-month average of 2.4%.
A separate report by Barclaycard found that spending at supermarkets rose by 21.3% in March, while specialist food and drink stores enjoyed a 30.5% increase. Spending on travel and fuel fell as people spent more time at home. Online purchases rose by 5.5%, while in -store transactions dropped by 4%. Although confidence in the economy is falling, Barclaycard noted that households were sanguine about their financial situation, with 68% remaining positive about their household finances.
Aldi’s Lacura launces eco beauty range
Aldi has launched a range of eco-friendly beauty products under its Lacura label, according to a report published by The Mirror. The Lacura Eco Starter Pack and Lacura Thoughtful Brush Set made their debut on the discounter’s website at the weekend.
The former is a three-in-one body bar set, with a shampoo, conditioner and body wash scented with honey, cherry blossom and lime and ginger respectively while the latter comprises a range of make-up applicators made from biodegradable materials and featuring vegan bristles. The range brings plastic-free beauty to the masses with its affordable price tag and proves that there’s still an appetite for eco-beauty, despite the crisis.
The Skinny Food Co unveils new #NotGuilty Jam flavours
UK-based snack brand The Skinny Food Co has expanded its range of low-sugar jams with the addition of Orange Marmalade and Black Cherry variants. The company claims that the two new flavours, which were six months in development, contain 85% less calories and 93% less sugar than other jam products available on the market. They are also reportedly fat- and gluten-free, high in fibre, vegan and diabetic-friendly. The brand’s latest jams join its existing #NotGuilty range, which also includes Strawberry, Raspberry, Blackcurrant and Apricot Jam flavours.
The Skinny Food Co’s products cater to health-conscious consumers, fitness fans and diabetics, and the brand says its new jams provide a ‘great healthy option’ when enjoyed with toast, baked products or breakfast. Wayne Starkey, CEO and co-founder of The Skinny Food Co, said: “We’re delighted to announce the launch of our two new jams and these mark just the start of our overall business strategy to grow and expand our product range to ensure healthier alternatives are always available.
“We have an exciting year planned with plenty of new product lines in the pipeline.”
#NotGuilty Orange Marmalade and Black Cherry Jams are available for an RRP of £3.99 per 260g pot.
PepsiCo rolling out Doritos in a cannister
PepsiCo is launching Doritos Stax, a triangular tube of its tortilla chip snack. The 170g cannister will be available in four flavours – Ultimate Cheese, Sour Cream & Onion, Mexican Chilli Salsa, as well as Tesco exclusive, Flaming Chicken Wings – with an RRP of £2.50. The launch will be supported by a TV, OOH, and digital advertising campaign, as well as partnerships with social media influencers in order to hit its target audience of Gen Z consumers.
Clafoutie Sintive, Marketing Director for snacks at PepsiCo, said: “Historically, cannister snacks is a segment that is shopped by the over 45s, but we want to extend that by targeting a younger audience. We know that Doritos appeals to generation Z, a generation that notoriously looks for brands that challenge the status quo, so we’re confident that the launch of Doritos Stax, coupled with our bold flavour choices and the innovative packaging, will bring younger shoppers to this segment.”
Heinz sells online for first time with £10 can bundle
Heinz has launched its first ever direct to consumer online shop, with free delivery for key workers. The shop, found at heinztohome.co.uk, will sell canned goods before expanding to its sauces as well as the imminent launch of a bundle filled with its baby products. The first offering, a ‘Heinz to Home’ bundle, is available now. The package will be made up of 16 cans - eight Heinz beans, four Heinz Hoops and four Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup. These bundles will cost £10 plus £3.50 for postage and will be delivered within three days of ordering.
To help key workers, that may struggle more than other people to find time to shop, Heinz has partnered with Blue Light Card, a discount service for NHS, Emergency Services, Social Care Workers and Armed Forces. Members can log in to their account and search for the Heinz offer to access the code, which will ensure free postage and priority shipping.
Jojo de Noronha, President of Kraft Heinz Northern Europe, said: “The shop is a first for us, and it comes in response to stories we’ve all heard in the last few weeks. Stories about people struggling to access food and basic necessities, where people are understandably upset about how they are going to eat and stay healthy during this pandemic, and about people who need food but can’t access it in any of the usual ways. While we continue to work day and night to get our most loved Heinz varieties on shelf, we hope this new initiative will help those who cannot otherwise access our products.”
Tom Dalby, CEO of Blue Light Card, added: “Those who work in our NHS and emergency services are doing amazing work at this time. We have always valued what they do on a daily basis, but now more than ever, we have the utmost respect for their bravery and dedication on the frontline. This partnership shows not only the strength of the Blue Light Card partnership, but also the enormity of support for our members around the UK.”
WIDER MARKET NEWS
Consumer demand begins to stabilise towards previous year trends
IRI has released its latest Consumer Spending Tracker covering the UK, France, Italy, Germany, US, New Zealand, Greece and the Netherlands. It uses point of sale (POS) data from major grocery retailers to provide insights on how the coronavirus crisis is impacting the industry and consumer buying behaviour. The most recent report suggests that across geographies, demand is beginning to stabilise towards typical trends with consumers shifting to steady-state purchasing post-stockpiling. However, in some categories, demand is still significantly higher or lower than last year.
For example, in the UK, sales of food & drink in the week ending 29 March were falling in some categories compared to the same period as last year, while demand for OTC healthcare and paper products (toilet roll) remained high. Meanwhile, e-commerce is continuing to show strong growth over last year. In Italy and France, there is a consistent, increasing shift to e-commerce since the beginning of the crisis. In the US, in-store sales grew more than e-commerce initially, but spending is beginning to revert more online post-stockpiling.
Scientists discover enzyme which breaks down PET plastic ‘in hours’
Scientists working for industrial chemistry firm Carbios have discovered an enzyme which can reportedly break down PET plastics for recycling into food-grade material in hours, rather than weeks. The discovery of the new PET hydrolase enzyme was reported in the scientific journal Nature, which claims that the enzyme can break down PET plastics into their individual chemical components in as little as ten hours, allowing the creation of new high-quality, food-grade PET packaging.
PET is very difficult to break down, and many thermomechanical recycling processes produce lower- quality plastic which is then used in non-food related products such as clothing and carpets. According to the journal, the PET hydrolase enzyme can biologically depolymerise 90% of PET polymers in ten hours, a significant upswing from the initial degradation yield of 1% after several weeks when using other enzymes. The journal stated: “This highly efficient, optimised enzyme outperforms all PET hydrolases reported so far”, including an enzyme from the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis strain 201-F6, which had generated interest.
Carbios has now formed strategic partnerships with major food and beverage firms including PepsiCo, Nestlé and Suntory to help scale and develop the technology. In a statement, Carbios said that it would conduct a trial in 2021 to test the “industrial and commercial potential” of the process.
If successful, Carbios claims that the proprietory process could represent a “paradigm shift” in the way that PET is recycled, and could pave the way towards a circular economy for plastics. Saleh Jabarin, professor at The University of Toledo, Ohio and a member of Carbios’ Scientific Committee, said: “It’s a real breakthrough in the recycling and manufacturing of PET.
“Thanks to the innovative technology developed by Carbios, the PET industry will become truly circular, which is the goal for all players in this industry, especially brand-owners, PET producers and our civilization as a whole.”
Gousto receives £33m investment to boost its expansion plans
Recipe box delivery firm Gousto has received £33 million in a funding round led by Perwyn, BGF, MMC Ventures and health influencer Joe Wicks, which will support the company’s growth strategy. Founded in 2012, Gousto has now raised approximately £130 million in funding over the last eight years. The company claims that its Q1 revenue has grown 70% year-on-year, and that it now delivers over 4 million meals every month to households in the UK.
According to a statement from the company, this latest investment will support the company’s expansion efforts as it will allow Gousto to significantly increase its workforce. Gousto plans to fill over 400 roles within the next four months across its production and distribution facility in Spalding, Lincolnshire and its HQ in London, with a particular focus on expanding its 100-strong tech team.
The company is also opening a second fulfilment centre later this year, and aims to hire over 700 new employees by 2022.
Meal kits and recipe boxes were predicted to have a major impact on the grocery shopping habits of consumers, and Gousto claims that the value of the UK recipe box market was expected to exceed £1.5 billion by 2022.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the growth of the online grocery market, as many consumers are now opting to purchase groceries online for the first time, a shift which Gousto claims could “accelerate structural change in the market by many years”.
Timo Boldt, CEO and founder of Gousto, said: “We continue to be laser-focused on our vision to become the UK’s most-loved way to eat dinner. This additional investment is not only a validation of our track record, but it is also an endorsement of our strategic vision of the future which is rooted in investing in innovative technology to transform the way we search for, shop for, and cook our food. In these challenging times, we want to continue offering people more choice and especially more convenience. We will maintain our close relationships with the government and other charitable partners to ensure those already struggling don’t see their situation worsen."
Shoppers’ trust in food And FMCG industry increases
Shopper trust in the food and consumer goods industry is the highest it’s been in a year, although financial confidence has t aken a dive, according to new research. The IGD Shopper Confidence Index blends four key measures that relate directly to the food and consumer goods sector to calculat e an overall indication of shopper confidence. The latest results for March show the index has declined by four points to -9 amid the coronavirus crisis. This is the lowest it has been since September last year when it fell to -10 due fears of a no-deal Brexit.
Trust in the industry is the only measure to buck the trend and has seen an increase of two points this month, the highest it has been in the past 12 months. The research found that while shoppers are most concerned with their household financial position going forward, as well as worries around future rises in food prices, they recognise and appreciate the efforts of the food and grocery industry during this period.
The data also revealed that 58% of shoppers have stockpiled groceries during the coronavirus outbreak, and savvy shopper behaviours are re-emerging such as cooking from scratch reducing food waste. Simon Wainwright, Director of Global Retail Insight at IGD, commented: “We are all living with daily proof of how external events can have significant impacts on all parts of our lives, not least how we shop for and think about food and groceries.
“The IGD Shopper Confidence Index aims to help industry stay close to shopper sentiment by acting as a diagnostic tool on a month-to-month basis, as well as a foundation to make future predictions. Understanding these dynamics can help underpin new product launches as well as shopper communication strategies. This pace of change is going to make it harder to create any long, or even, medium term category plans. Keeping on the pulse of how shoppers are feeling has never been so vital.”