Selection of Indian food including curries, rice, samosas and naan bread.

As consumers’ tastes become more adventurous, the world foods market is flourishing. Asian Trader discovers how independent retailers can capitalise.

The UK’s appetite for world foods has been nurtured – what were once niche produce and delicacies becoming commonplace in British kitchens.
As revealed in a recent report from Mintel, the category is estimated to be worth £1.5 billion.
With the approach of super-diversity in cities like Leicester, Birmingham and London, stores located in areas with high diversity and who segment to cater for these consumers will naturally see more sales of their world food ranges. However, beyond the demographics and for a variety of reasons the nation’s taste buds are seeking out more adventurous flavours.
Key trends driving growth include consumers being inspired by food eaten on their tropical holidays. Also, a desire to recreate recipes from restaurant or street food experiences at home. Other influences include trendy cooking programs and the growing influence of social media platforms like Instagram.
Sanjay Wadhwani, Managing Director of Wanis, says: “When considering the best place for a world food brand there are a range of matters to consider. For example, under-estimating the mainstream consumers appetite for world foods can result in poor-performance, so knowing your target market is critical. Also, ensuring that the range and space in store adapts to demand will be key to maximising opportunities. Teaming up with a supplier such as Wanis will enable you to better capitalise and react to these opportunities.”
Wadhwani adds British brands have a reputation for quality which has helped boost Wanis’ ambitions abroad.
“We recently had an order from Antigua, and are growing in territories such as Nigeria,” he reveals. “10% of the business currently is exporting abroad. The international success has come without us going out looking for it. In future we realise there is huge potential for us abroad and that’ll be a focus for us.”
Wadhwani says the company’s success is in part due to the diversification of tastes as a result of the flavours that were introduced via immigration in the 1960s. Now in modern day Britain, not only those it has one of the fastest growing communities from diverse backgrounds it’s also one of the most culturally diverse and integrated countries in Europe.
What was once described as ‘ethnic or foreign food’ is no longer unfamiliar and the consumer is hungry to try different foods which has been good for us. To add to this, Wanis focuses on quality and iconic heritage world foods from the ‘sunshine countries’.
Research from Mintel demonstrates the importance of cookery programs, social media and the consumers desire to recreate their tropical food adventures at home. Noting this, Wanis Marketing Manager Julz Davis said “We take great care in developing products that are authentic and work closely with chefs and producers who both understand the product and love the food from that region. As part of this we have stepped up our efforts to inform customers about the product usage and recipe ideas.”
This includes more information on-pack, on our website and increased activity on social media platforms. Wanis has focussed on the simpler but better-known dishes to make, which are quick convenient, including using Jerk Paste to make Jerk Chicken, or Jollof seasoning to make Jollof Rice. Then there’s the more complex recipes for on trend products such as Breadfruit to make a vegan filling for Mexican tacos.
Wadhwani adds: “Wanis has never stood still and isn’t about to now. “We’re ideally placed for product innovation. We’re seeing big trends now with people experimenting, wanting differing food flavour profiles, and not just partitioned to particular regions.
“So, we’re seeing a lot of flavour fusions and that represents an opportunity for us to lead in that direction as well as in food trends like veganism and healthy eating. With the agility we have to bring products to market and be innovative, there’s a big opportunity to lead on those areas too.”
For some years Caribbean food has been bubbling under. Within the multiples, the African and Caribbean Category alone is currently worth circa £167m and is seeing YoY growth of 6.7%.
Now with primetime cookery programs like Ainsley Hariots Caribbean Kitchen, established chefs like Levi Roots and raising stars like Liam Bakes, Caribbean food is on the boil. Add in the rise of national restaurant chains like Turtle Bay and even Usain Bolts Tracks and Records and you’ve got a perfect cocktail for growth.
Whilst Jamaican food and culture is top of mind with the consumer, Wanis also specialises in brands from the many other Caribbean islands. Key brands within the Wanis portfolio include Carib Larger (Trinidad & Tobago), Barons Sauces (St Lucia) and Tortuga (Caymans), etc.
Another cuisine to look out for is African food. With over 50 countries on the continent, there is certainly a lot to choose from. Nigeria and the Ghanaian foods are most evidently making their way onto menus in the out-of-home space, led by the diaspora communities across the UK. Notable African brands in the Wanis portfolio include Africa’s Finest, Ghana Best, Tropiway and De Vina, etc.
Rice is a key ingredient across the globe due to its versatility and the central role it plays in many different cuisines from Middle Eastern to Indian, Caribbean, to South American and Mexican.
“The combination of a multi-cultural Korean population across the UK and an increasing familiarity with exotic foods through restaurant dining and travel, has led to a growing interest in the world food category,” comments Anna Beheshti, Brand Lead at Tilda. “Rice is also the perfect ingredient for a number of globally inspired eating occasions including BBQs, especially in the Ready To Heat (RTH) format – perfect as a healthy side option, to add to soups or bulk up salads.”
Perhaps the fact that the total rice market is now worth £18.7m and growing by +4.1% (IRI), can be attributed in part to the growing consumer interest in international food dishes. UK household penetration for total rice is 88% and still growing – while RTH penetration stands at 57% (+3.1% YOY), meaning there is more headroom for category growth (Kantar).
UK consumer dining habits continue to explore the food scenes of global cultures where rice is an integral ingredient from Middle Eastern to Indian, Caribbean, Korean but also South American and Mexican.
Tilda has continued to focus in recent years on developing unique Tilda Steamed recipes that quality-conscious consumers have come to expect from the brand. The following unique SKUs have been the most successful ones over the last year in convenience: Coconut (+43% YOY), Limited Edition Peri Peri (+685% YOY) and Lime & Coriander (+6% YOY). In addition, our three classic best-selling price marked packs are all growing: Pure Basmati (+91% YOY), Brown Basmati (+159% YOY) and Pilau (+135% YOY).
Tilda has also launched new SKUs: the previous Ltd Edition Caribbean Rice & Peas was so successful that it has become part of the range, and Tilda’s brand new Super Grains – a 5-strong range that combine ancient grains such as Wild rice, Quinoa, Sorghum and Millet with other delicious superfoods ingredients including Coconut or Sweet Potato.
Tilda Firecracker was the first very hot and spicy rice to launch into the ready to heat (RTH) category and the rate of sale of this Tilda SKU was the highest compared to any other previous limited edition SKU in the three years prior. Due to high consumer demand Firecracker now sits as part of the permanent Tilda range.
Microwave rice is the biggest sub segment of rice, worth £251m in the total market (Kantar). This equates to over £11m in the convenience channel, where RTH rice pouches have continued to see growth in both value sales, +3.3%, and volumes +4.0% (IRI).
“It’s not all about Ready to Heat!” adds Beheshti. “Scratch cooking is having a real resurgence thanks to the growth of healthy eating, which continues to dominate with consumers constantly looking for innovative ways in which to introduce healthier foods into their diets. Dry Rice block packs and boil in the bag value is holding steady in convenience and remains a key part of the top up and dinner for tonight missions.”
Tilda is the no 1 brand in Dry rice and accounts for 23.0% of value share in GB & NI convenience (IRI). Tilda Pure Basmati 500g remains the highest value Dry SKU in convenience and the price marked pack is the highest selling branded line by rate of sale.
Tilda offers a comprehensive range of dry rice options including Pure Basmati Rice, Wholegrain Basmati, Basmati Blends with Quinoa or Wild Rice, Fragrant Jasmine Rice, Long Grain Rice and Basmati & Wild Rice. Tilda 500g Brown Basmati is the no1 value wholegrain line and brings incremental sales to the category.
“On an on-going basis, Tilda Pure Basmati 500g and 1kg packs are permanently price-marked which helps drive sales day in day out,” says Beheshti. “Price-marked packs make consumers feel like they’re getting a good deal, which in turn makes them more likely to return, which means retailers not stocking these are missing a big opportunity. Tilda has promotional packs on both its dry Pure Basmati 500g (£2.25) and 1kg (£3.99) and ready-to-heat range (£1.09).”
Adding more than £3m YOY to the rice category, with sales growth of 34.6% during the last year (Nielsen 2018),) annual Laila rice sales are now edging toward the £12m mark. Laila has achieved the biggest branded growth among the Top 3 UK dry rice brands for the second year running with Laila owners, Surya Foods, also seeing a return of its Salaam rice brand to the UK Top 10.
The performance follows the biggest rebrand in the company’s history, which saw the launch of a new strapline and recyclable packaging – ‘Love Laila Naturally’ – earlier this year. The global, multi-million pound transformational rebrand kicked off with the introduction of 100% recyclable packaging across its entire range of smaller bags last November – tapping into one of the most marked consumer trends of the day – the war on single use plastic. The extensive Laila range is also evolving to meet other key industry trends from increasingly adventurous UK tastes to the rise of gluten free diets and healthy eating, to consumer demand for premium quality at affordable prices.
“The Laila brand now offers specialty rices from every corner of the globe from basmati for the Asian market, to easy cook for the Caribbean, to Sona Masoori for the Eqyptian and Persian market, to Tosyo rice for the Turkish to name a few,” says Harry Dulai, Managing Director of Surya Foods and Flying Trade Group. “Its aim – to bring a world of flavour to UK consumers and make exploring new cuisines easy and accessible for all. With an educational offering across 17 varieties of rice, super grains, spices and condiments Laila is certainly playing its part in popularising world cuisine.”
The evolution of the brand’s signature heart into a butterfly motif, reflects the transformation of the brand as it doubles its efforts to attract a mainstream audience while celebrating its ‘natural, environmentally friendly’ credentials. The rebrand has also been supported by a brand new Laila website and advertising package.
During the last year Flying Trade Group has invested heavily in halal NPD to improve the convenience offering to busy Muslim families. Humza ranges available in chilled and frozen are among only a few halal exclusive ranges available in the UK.
The premium Humza frozen range features samosas, spring rolls, kebabs, grills, burgers, sausages and frozen vegetables popular in halal cooking. The range combines select cuts of halal meat, blended with the finest spices and exotic herbs for an unmistakeable home-cooked taste – but in just minutes.
The expansion of this range is proving particularly attractive to younger shoppers who love convenience. The Humza brand is now worth over £6 million, a massive achievement in just three years since the brand’s acquisition by FTG. Since its acquisition Humza has expanded rapidly into national retail and become a major player in the halal arena.
Adventurous tastes
“The booming demand for bolder, spicier flavours is being driven by ever more adventurous consumers who are constantly seeking out new, authentic and exciting snacks and taste combinations,” comments Debbie King, Director of Commercial Sales & Marketing at Cofresh, the UK’s No 1 Indian snack brand. “With an estimated 10 million lunch occasions now involving Indian food, the consumer appetite for hot and strong flavours shows no sign of diminishing any time soon – which of course means there are some great opportunities out there for world food on the grocery calendar!”
Key selling times of the year also have a positive impact on the category as the growth in popularity in world food and the increasingly mainstream effect of cultural celebrations like Diwali go hand in hand – what were unusual or curious flavours are now becoming mainstream choices.
To help retailers capitalise on these, Cofresh creates bespoke seasonal WIGIG lines specifically for Ramadan (when selected snack lines incorporate dates which are typically associated with this religious period), Diwali (a time of celebration when we offer our best-selling Chakri and Bombay Mix in bumper sharing packs), and Christmas, when cranberries and festive flavours feature prominently.
The world foods snacks market is currently very buoyant – it’s growing faster than any other savoury snack category. Overall, it’s valued at £63m with Indian snacks representing a 77% share and driving 90% of all world snacks growth. Mixes are in particularly good health – the segment is now valued at £8.9m and shows 11.5% growth.
“Continued consumer demand for new, authentic and bolder flavours, the rise of in-home socialising and our investment in the Cofresh brand all combine to help push the category forward, but greater consumer interest in healthier snacking is also having an impact,” adds King.
Cofresh has seen a significant increase in sales of our potato-based Grills range since the launch of new flavour variants (Peri Peri, Chilli Cheese and Sweet Chilli) each containing 30% less fat.