Food manufacturers are not taking the catering sector seriously enough when it comes to developing products for them and should start viewing it as a place to launch new ranges and build brands, not as simply a bolt on to retail sales.
That's the view of foodservice analyst and Horizons managing director Peter Backman, who believes food producers are ignoring the £10.3bn foodservice market to focus mainly on the retail sector.
“FMCG manufacturers often view foodservice as a poor relation to retail sales, merely repackaging their products into larger pack sizes. But the foodservice sector is growing at a faster rate than food retail as people eat more and more of their meals out of the home – and we will continue to see further growth over the next decade,” he said.
“Many restaurant and pub menus now feature specific brand names on their menus, while other restaurant products have successfully transferred to the retail market, where they usually command premium prices."
Speaking to FMCG investors at the Consumer Analyst Group Europe conference in London yesterday, Backman said restaurants, hotels and pubs would be a good place to launch products.
"Manufacturers can test the market, gauge customer response and, with the help of restaurant operators, build successful brands. It’s also far cheaper to build a brand through the catering sector than it is through the retail trade," he said.
Organic meat producer Laverstoke Park is one example of a successful brand being built in the restaurant sector before going into retail. The farm's buffalo mozzarella was used by many chefs, including L'Anima's Francesco Mazzei before being launched in Waitrose last year.
The flavour enhancer Verjuice, until now only used by chefs, has also become available to home cooks in the UK after launching online.
Horizons’ QuickBite survey of 1,000 consumers in December last year valued the sales through the catering sector at £36.6bn. It found that price is becoming less of an influencing factor on eating out and that consumers are becoming less pessimistic about how often they thought they would eat out in the future. Seventy-three per cent of respondents said they would eat out the same amount as in 2009, while 5 per cent said they planned to eat out more often in 2010 than they had in 2009.