Having recently worked on a headhunt assignment for one of our food clients (a cheese business), we attended the International Cheese Awards, in Nantwich. Along with catching up with my client, it was a great opportunity to network with other key contacts as well as get a feel for how the current food sector is performing.
I have lived in the area myself for a number of years and have to confess I was unaware of how large the show was. Donning my tweed jacket (to help look the part) I went to see what the show was all about…
Part of the Nantwich Show, the International Cheese Awards consists of 4,500 cheeses on display with awards given to the best in class and by type. The big show day was on the Wednesday, with celebrity chefs on hand to demonstrate their cheese cooking as well as the chance for consumers to sample a wide range of cheeses from all over the world, as well as take some home to enjoy with a bottle of red wine that evening (which I did myself)!
Along with independent cheese sellers, there was a presence from the larger suppliers and both Tesco and Asda had stands there. With their new products on offer, it looked like a fantastic opportunity for the Retailers to engage with their customer base away from the aisles. The retailers were also given awards, with Waitrose coming out on top as the best retailer.
The previous day was for cheese judging followed by an industry dinner and awards presentation. With 1200 people attending the dinner, there isn’t a marquee big enough to cater for that number of people in the UK. A larger marquee had to be drafted in from France! With all the key retail buying teams attending as well as their key supplier, it was a great chance for them to talk all things cheese and more importantly, finalise plans for their Christmas ranges and promotions.
From attending the event myself and speaking to my contacts, it was evident that consumers still crave that little bit of luxury and demand quality. There was a real buzz about the show with consumers eager to try something new. Retailers are still looking to adapt and offer that little bit of something new or different to keep to consumer coming back. Market perception of price and value are not the only key market driver, with Waitrose’s recent sales figures evidence of this.