When it comes to food and drink, what does ‘Ethnic’ mean these days? True British food is probably limited to sausages, pies, roasts and fish and chips. The mainstream food manufacturers supply spaghetti bolognaise, moussaka, pizza and Chicken Kiev. Yes, it’s European and you could eat something like it in the countries the recipes come from, but the point is, by most people’s definition it’s not ‘ethnic,’ it’s mainstream. And where do you put all the American foods like burgers and Tex/Mex? Again, they’re all mainstream.
When it comes to ethnic brands, arguably the biggest UK success stories in the Ethnic Food & Drink industry include Patak, Blue Dragon, Tsing Tao Beer and Wing Yip’s branded products. These have all crossed over from their respective ethnic community into the mainstream, as the UK population have become confident enough to enjoy these cuisines at home. These products can now be found in supermarkets as well, as they sell in sufficient quantities to the wider UK population for the major multiples to recognise their importance.
These brands are in the Premiership of ethnic food and drink brands. Below them are a host of other products at different stages in the transition from ‘incoming ethnic’ to mainstream crossover. And all represent a major profit opportunity for Britain’s Cash ‘n’ Carries and delivered wholesalers, who are well placed to capitalise on the continuing growth in ethnic food and drink.
Many of our most successful Cash ‘n’ Carries are Asian owned, with roots going back to the arrival of the Ugandan Asians here in the 1970s. They have historic links to the neighbourhood stores in the communities they serve but now also serve caterers, cafes, pubs and the whole spectrum of other retailers who buy from wholesalers.
A brief review of British history will highlight the layers of immigration from Ireland, Europe and beyond over the last two centuries. Every incoming population has brought its share of enterprising merchants keen to supply their community with food either imported from home or made here to authentic recipes or in keeping with traditions.
Wing Yip, Britain’s leading Oriental grocer, is the classic example of an ethnic wholesale business established here for a long time and has stuck to doing what it does best. Founder Wing Yip was awarded the OBE in 2010 for services to the Oriental food industry in the New Year Honours List, shortly followed by Brian Yip winning the Young Wholesaler of the Year and culminating in Mr Wing Yip receiving a lifetime achievement award at the world Food Awards.
In recent years, the influx of workers from Eastern Europe has prompted the emergence of Polish and other food specialists. We’re now used to seeing Tyskie beer in independent stores and supermarkets alike. What can we look forward to next in terms of products from other countries with crossover appeal? That’s the excitement of ethnic food and drink – there’s always something new in store.