UK suppliers urged to target European ethnic food demand

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags United kingdom Meal

British ethnic food manufacturers are missing a lucrative export
market as demand for foreign food flourishes in western Europe.

The British population, renowned for its devotion to curry, has been long-served by ready meal manufacturers familiar with local tastes for foreign foods.

But Food from Britain (FFB), a UK-based consultancy, claims that demand for exotic foods is steadily growing all over Europe, with sales in Spain and Germany growing 30 per cent year on year.

Increasing numbers of affluent Europeans travelling abroad and developing tastes for exotic foods is driving the trend, as traditional habits evolve and consumers seek easy-to-prepare unusual alternatives.

And UK manufacturers may be best poised to capitalise on the export possibilities of ranges such as Amoy and Pataks.

"As the UK is recognised as a world leader in ready meals and ethnic food, producers can use their expertise to great advantage and opportunities to export to Europe are very high with retailers increasingly looking to source authentic products,"​ said FFB's head of research Chris Brockman.

This may come as welcome news for manufacturers in the £1bn industry who are struggling with market saturation.

The fastest developing market is Holland, which has seen double-digit growth in frozen and chilled ready meals. Oriental, Italian and Mexican cuisines are proving the most popular, though Sweden is Europe's highest per capita consumer of Mexican meals.

Although many firms are failing to tap the growing trend, iconic food manufacturer Heinz has made moves into the sector. The US-based company, which operates throughout northern Europe bought a perpetual licence to market HP's expanding Amoy Asian range.

It acquired the brand last year, along with some lesser-known Asian ranges. The American food giant has since agreed to sell parts of this ethnic foods business, bought from Danone in a bundle for £470m, to Associated British Foods. But it intends to keep the successful Amoy range.

The deal will see Heinz passing on brands such as Rajah, Green Dragon and Lotus, as the company reduces its portfolio to concentrate on key areas.

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