Regular readers of this column (I do hope that there are some of you out there) will remember that I was rather underwhelmed by my recent visit to the Hampton Court Foodies Festival. Bruised but not battered by this experience, I continued my epicurean tour with a trip to Taste of London in Regent’s Park last weekend. What a difference. The atmosphere was buzzing, the organisation terrific and the sold-out signs were up as the capital’s designer restaurants relocated their kitchens for a picnic in the park.
My main cause for complaint about the Hampton Court event was that it was simply not good enough to merit a £15 entry ticket. Prices for Taste of London were in fact much higher, but delivered thoroughly good value.
As we continue to drown in economic woes, it was reassuring to see the public out in force, having a great time and happily spending as they tasted their way around the gastro globe. It is a useful reminder that absolute pricing is not everything, but that delivering on your promise is what matters most.
In light of this I find it interesting to watch the behaviour of the nation’s supermarkets. After years of driving premium brands, not least their own premium ranges, it appears that premium has now become a dirty word.
At a status meeting this week, our sales director reported that he was struggling to retain listings of our premium ranges. Instead, this particular supermarket buyer now urgently requires more own-label economy lines. It seems that the premium lines we developed largely at her request less than a year ago are now out of fashion.
We’re finding that this knee-jerk behaviour is not uncommon, yet I suspect it is largely caused by the supermarkets’ obsession with copying each other, rather than listening to what their customers really want.
There is a role for both economy and premium choice, but it is staggering how many successful premium lines are currently being cast aside, labelled as “inappropriate” for these troubled times.
I am sure I’m not the only marketing director who would urge supermarket buyers to get out of their office once in a while. For anyone visiting Taste of London last week, they would have seen that premium food and drink is still very much alive and kicking, although I fear most were too busy stuck behind their desks analysing price comparison websites.