Category Archives: Food and Drink

RETAIL INNOVATION : Milk Dispenser : Tus Supermarket, Sezana, Slovenia

A cute way to get your pint in the morning.  From what I can gather this milk dispenser outside Tus supermarket in Slovenia churns out fresh milk for 1 Euro per litre – there’s also information on the time and date it was milked.

STRATEGY : What Wholefoods Kensington Should Do…1. Increasing Sales in the Downstairs Takeaway Section

I do love Wholefoods Market but I’ve got a lot to say about what they should be doing to make their Kensington venture more successful.  In fact, 2 years ago I wrote them an analysis and recommendations report outlining just those ideas…and they liked it enough to invite me in to discuss.  Thanks guys!  I’ll post those notes at a later date but to start with, I wanted to share some new ideas about how to increase sales in the downstairs takeaway section (I got some of this inspiration from a recent trip to the US).

On the ground floor there is a takeaway section – with the emphasis on 3 banks of DIY build-a-box salads and other food fayre.  There is a large choice of hot food, cold food and a whole area dedicated to no-oil healthy things.  The idea in principal is great but it just doesn’t work.

Why not? Let’s look at a successful example.

If you visit the WFM in Venice, California you will see packs of bronzed hipsters and families eating from a similar (if not much bigger and more exciting) takeaway section in their store.  It’s seen as a convenient, wholesome, healthy and delicious alternative to cooking at home.  The food is delicious, the choice expansive and there is an outside dining area where customers eat (they also have the good fortune of fabulous, year-round weather). There is a huge car park for easy accessibility and loading.  Friends of mine living in the area ‘dine’ at WFM at least 3 times a week.  Eating here is not considered the cheapest option, but is by no means prohibitive either.  I guess you’d call it a cool and vibrant hangout.

Compare this to the UK version. I rarely see anyone eating from here.  I have on several occasions tried the food and have been thoroughly disappointed with the flavours (unlike my US experiences which were always very pleasurable).  There are some delicious dishes such as the Chickpea Chana and Spelt with tomatoes but many are bland or too greasy (ironic for a health food store).  I tried some of the chicken satay and tofu bars from the deli counter and they came cold, hard and congealed.  Before ordering I’d asked if the satay was fatty and was non-passionately told that it wasn’t as it was made from a chicken fillet.  However, when I bit into the meat, I encountered lots of fatty bits.

What else isn’t working?

Sales in this area are hampered by the customers’ perceived expense of the food mixed with ‘fear of the unknown’ : the food looks like canteen food but the prices seem designer….and as a weight-based pricing system it’s difficult to know how much you are spending.  It doesn’t feel comfortable or fun choosing food if you think you are going to be whacked with a large bill at the end (particularly if it then doesn’t taste amazing).  And unlike sandwiches or other takeaway items, you can’t return your food if you think you’ve spent too much  – once you start making up your box you have to pay for it whatever.

The last point that I’d like to make is that the area lacks vibe.  As I will go on to mention in future comments about ‘What Wholefoods Kensington Should Do’, vibe and experience is the key to making the store a success.  M&S and Waitrose have organic and gourmand to rival WFM but they do it in their own chic, upscale way. People pay those prices because it feels great / special / luxurious to be shopping in those stores.  The lower priced supermarkets and discounters such as Asda, Tesco and Lidl offer food at unbeatable prices – it feels great to get goods at special prices.  And so Wholefoods must attract customers not just on the strength of its amazing grocery offer but on the special All-American atmosphere, great customer experience and first class customer service.

What Wholefoods Market Should Do to Increase Sales in the Takeaway Section

We can’t change the weather or add a huge carpark to the store but there are measures which I believe will make a difference.

1. Offer set price boxes so the customer knows what they are paying for.  If this is too drastic, lower the prices!

2. Improve the recipes and aesthetic appeal of food offer.  I know WFM don’t like to compare themselves to competitors but the food offer at Planet Organic is far more appealing and healthy looking.

3. Create a ground floor dining area adjacent to the takeaway banks (currently a hamper section).  This would encourage lunch time eaters into the store and attract night time eaters who want a fun and easy dinner meal.  This area is wasted on hampers and makes an ideal dining proposition because it’s a cosy space (unlike the rest of store) plus people can see in and diners can see out (hey we have a vibe!).  I know there is plenty of room to eat takeaway upstairs but the sheer thought of going up another floor is off-putting (particularly if you’re in a rush).  In fact, by adding space downstairs, eating space upstairs can be reduced making way for an expanded (and currently very poor and uncommitted) gifts area (my thoughts for this will be revealed in the next post!).  A final point is that consideration should be given to the tables (away with the school-like designs of upstairs) – I think communal tables and a small amount of 2-seaters in rustic or innovative materials would be good.

A downstairs dining area would create an unusual fast (vibey, American, west-coast) and slow (quality, personal, special) environment.

Proposed Dining Area

One of the three banks of food

Looking towards the hamper section - the area for proposed dining

PACKAGING : Blackboard Chic – Tescos Finest

A little while ago I blogged about the new food packaging and merchandising at Starbucks.  It was a thumbs up from me as I love the simple black background and white chalk aesthetic.  It looks like Tesco dig blackboard chic too…check out the their Finest Restaurant Collection range….very similar.

PRODUCT WATCH : Update : Neuro Drinks

In my Product Watch from LA I blogged about an interesting functional drink range called Neuro.  When I went into Selfridges at the weekend I couldn’t help but notice that they’ve now entered the UK market…just check out the colourful display.

One thing I didn’t mention in my initial post is that they offer junior versions of their drinks – ‘neuro junior’ – I haven’t seen this in a drinks range before. 


Neuro drinks stand at Selfridges, London

PACKAGING : vida e caffe Recyclable Cups and Funky Moustache

The majority of takeout coffee cups are not recyclable which is really disappointing.  Even though I’m an exemplary recycler and eco-minded person I hate to think about the landfill caused by my Starbucks habit.  I was really pleased then to read about caffe e vida’s new recyclable cups which are made out of potato skins and the lids are made out of corn.  It feels kind of cool drinking from vegetable containers. 

In fact vide e caffe wins my vote in the cool stakes in many ways – I sung their praise in my Cape Town report earlier in the year.  I love their funky moustache campaign seen on cups and stirring sticks – enough to put a smile on your day.  I can’t wait until there is a store nearer me!


Recyclable cups and moustache campaign

PRODUCT WATCH : LA : Beverages

What’s happening in LA? : Beverages @ Wholefoods / grocery stores

1. Ayala’s Herbal Water The herbs in this beverage serve as flavouring rather than a health benefit which is a shame.  

2. Quinoa Gold Quinoa is only just starting to be recognized as a healthy food in the UK – although I’m not sure if many Brits could tell you exactly what it is and how you cook with it.  I’m only familiar with this grain as a baking / salad ingredient so I was interested to see it being used in a beverage (the new rice milk?). Claims to be the only beverage made with Quinoa.  The grain is high protein, antioxidant and contains “all 9 essential amino acids for life”.

3. Grainiassance Amazake Rice Shake Rice drinks go more decadent and almost meal replacements with tempting flavours such as Cool Cocunut with Almonds, Vanilla Gorilla and Tiger Chai. Made from organic whole grain brown rice. 

4. GT Kombucha & Synergy Teas made from a superfood kind of fungus.  Contain probiotics (as well as a host of other healthful ingredients).  Liked the packaging.

5. FloraVita 2000 An infusion of fruits and berries with flower of the black elder tree.  Claims to have anti-viral properties. 

6. Goodbelly Probiotic Fruit Drinks Dairy-free probiotic drinks with added multivitamin – carton sized as well as grab and go-s.  Nice identity. 

7. So Delicious Coconut Milk Move over soy – there’s a new product in the milk aisle! Loving the idea of coconut milk as a milk substitute…I wonder if it’s too sickly to make a latte out of? I also saw ice cream and yoghurt made out of coconut milk (Turtle Mountain range and Larry and Luna’s Organic Coconut Bliss)

8. Neuro Drinks A range of functional drinks with an eye catching if not slightly showergel kind of bottle design.  There are 7 different variants each with their own benefit – these range from weightloss and hydration to mental alertness and improved libido.  The Neuro Bliss variant which “promotes relaxation and improves mood” contains one of my all time favourite and under used supplements, Rhodiola Rosea.

Trends for the UK?

Of the trends and concepts above I think probiotic drinks and functional drinks (especially for cognitive enhancement) will go mainstream here.  I’m also thinking that the terms ‘anti-viral’ / anti-bacterial’ may become more commonly used (desired) when describing health benefits.

LA drinks

Ayala's Herbal Water, Quinoa Gold, Amazake Rice Shake, GT Kombucha

La Drinks 2

GT Synergy, Floravita2000, Goodbelly Probiotic Fruit Drink, So Delicious Coconut Milk, Neuro Sport

PRODUCT WATCH : LA : Crisps /snacking

What’s happening in LA? : Crisps/ snacks @ Wholefoods

1. Falafel chips – made with chickpeas, an apparently healthy crisp which is high in protein and Middle Eastern flavour. 

2. Hippie Chips with hemp (seed)- another healthy crisp option which claims to have 50% less fat than regular crisps.  I love the fun hippy name – very en vogue – but it’s a shame that they don’t offer some kind of omega benefit which hemp is known for. 

3. Glenny’s Soy Crisps – think these have been around for a while…low fat (s0me as low as 1g of fat per bag) and healthier than ‘regular’ crisps.

4. Dried Mulberries– look a bit like anaemic raspberries, apparently high in antioxidants including the resveratrol.

5. Terramazon Sachi Inchi – seeds from the fruit of a herbaceous vine native to the Amazon rainforest.  Rich in omega 3,6 and 9. 

6. Terramazon Yacon slices – melon tasting semi dried slices taken from the root of the Yacon plant.  Amongst other benefits these are prebiotic.

Snacks LAFalafel Chips, Hippie Chips with hemp, Glenny’s Soy Crisps, Terramazon Yacon slices


Frozen yoghurt is big business in the US – particularly in SoCal where a mild weather lifestyle meets a health conscious consumer.  Despite issues with market saturation and the economic downturn, fro-yo still remains popular and it is slowly growing a fanbase in the UK with a number of joints popping up over London and the South East.  Frozen yoghurt is the ultimate healthy snack being (generally) fat-free, delicious and tastes kind of like ice cream.  Due to its frozen nature, it also takes a while to eat – so you get to indulge for longer and eat less calories than you would with a stack of biscuits or a chocolate bar.

Trends in the UK?

Whether we see soy or hemp crisps on our shelves or not, it’s certain that more innovative, healthier snack options will be available to the consumer soon. For example, take Pret founder Julian Metcalfe’s Skinny popcorn – at approx 3g of fat a bag, it’s a far better choice nutritionally than a packet of crisps – it tastes yummy too.  And with fro-yo – cute, small independent operations are opening up all over London – but might this extend to the big boys too? Sushi chain Itsu (another Julian Metcalfe venture) offers this healthy treat so could we see coffee chains or even McDonalds following suit?

STRATEGY : My Comments to Starbucks Customer Service

A little while ago I spoke to a charming and very efficient customer services representative at Starbucks about an issue I had with their loyalty card.

Although that issue was resolved seamlessly, I also felt the need to suggest the following :

1 : Offer auto top-up on company loyalty card : it’s a faff topping up a loyalty card as the process involves 2 card transactions – particularly off-putting at peak times (when you are most likely to be in there). Plus, why add something else to do to someone’s ever increasing list of things to do? I generally don’t bother to top up and instead pay with money or a debit card (1 transaction).  Also, when it comes to my caffeine habit I like to follow an ignorance is bliss strategy – I’d rather not know how much I’m spending on external coffees when I should be making them all at home.  By having to constantly top up myself I am only too aware of this expense. 

2 : Offer organic milk : Starbucks is really behind its competitors with this one.  The company focus on Fair Trade which is great, but I’m equally concerned with organic when it comes to milk – I want milk from cows who have a better diet and have grazed on grass. I’m sure I’m not alone on this one.

VISUAL MERCHANDISING : Aesthetically Pleasing Food Offer @ Starbucks

I admit to being quite partial to my daily latte from Starbucks, but never have I been tempted by their food offer – cheap and nasty looking pastries in a soulless and uninspiring counter display.  How many people have I seen grab their morning coffee from Starbucks only to choose their breakfast treat from the Paul’s nearby (where the displays are beautiful and product authentic). 

But now Starbucks have done a re-haul with their food.  The Live Well range is a healthier and more wholesome affair with new products and better ingredients…but what’s interesting is how appealing and stylish it looks thanks to a chic but really simple black design theme – which includes the pack, marketing material and cleverly, the black ‘boards’ which the products sit on.  It’s so effective that I catch myself staring at the food and contemplating a purchase.  On the occasions that I’ve visited, the counters have been pretty empty so I’m wondering if I’m not alone with these thoughts!

Starbucks display

TREND : Londoners and Ice Cream

Ice cream bars are popping up all over London.   Much like the gourmet chocolate and cupcake stores/cafes trend of the last few years * ice cream dine n’ retail seems to be where it’s at now. 

Some examples west-side include upscale gelataria Gelato Mio on Holland Park Road which has opened another branch at Notting Hill Gate, the recently opened (and very nice) Ca’puccino cafe at Westfields which offers a big range of delicious home made ice creams, and pop up shop Icecreamists opens today in Selfridges offering a wild and fabulous range of flavours. 

*  …btw – new cupcake store opening on Kensington Park Road soon….

Ice cream