Alam Ameer, Operations Director at Wanis International Foods, must be one of the busiest people in world foods, with Wanis being sole UK distributor of major brands Bevelini, Tropical Vibes, Carib and Tropical Sun. Alam spoke to Wholesale Manager.

Alam, the world foods market is very crowded, but Wanis continues to be extremely successful. What do you put your lasting success down to? Wanis is an inclusive, family-run business, with deep market knowledge. We push traditional products but can also spot gaps and launch new products quickly.

What products are in the Tropical Sun range?

Tropical Sun have been tropicalising Britain’s taste buds since 1996, bringing the world’s flavours to family tables. From snacks, seasonings and sauces to pulses, drinks and teas we have over 450 products in the range, which has won 22 Great Taste Awards. How big is the world food category? World food is worth £1.7 billion and predicted to grow 5.1% annually, while total UK grocery will grow 14.1% by 2023.

Are Brits getting bolder about ‘going global’?

Definitely! Tropical Sun’s World of Taste report reveals 97% of Brits eating more adventurously and 8 in 10 choosing global cuisines for their meals. What was once described as ‘ethnic or foreign food’ is no longer unfamiliar and 3 in 4 customers now demand wider food choices from retailers. This has been good for us, as we’re renowned for our focus on quality and iconic heritage world foods from the ‘sunshine countries.’

Tropical Sun were official partners of World Food Week this summer. What was involved?

Celebrating the rich food cultures, customs and cuisines enriching the British menu, Tropical Sun’s consumer campaign, ‘The Wonderful World of Food’ included being an official partner of World Food Week in June, an annual event highlighting world food’s impact and influence. Activities included creating new recipes and easy to follow videos to inspire Brits to try different dishes during the Week.

What above the line activity are Tropical Sun currently running?

As part of the ‘Wonderful World of Food’ campaign, Tropical Sun have invested in a media mix targeting core ethnic and emerging mainstream consumers through radio, outdoor, experiential, sampling, PR, social media and national press. Tropical Sun are also sponsoring the weather on Asian radio station Sunrise Radio. And in the run-up to Christmas we are focussing on outdoor and TV. Trade engagement will be amplified through trade PR, instore promotions, POS and sampling.

How did Tropical Sun come to sponsor the Jamaica UK Rugby 7s team? What’s the latest news?

Tropical Sun’s ‘Proud To Be Made in Jamaica’ range is produced in Jamaica and our factory actively supports the local community. Also, seven of Tropical Sun’s 22 Great Taste Awards come from the ‘proud to be made in Jamaica range,’ so partnering with the Jamaica Rugby 7s team was a natural fit. Positioned as the ‘cool runnings’ of rugby there’s a joint mission to get the team to be the first Caribbean team qualifying for the Olympics. We have created a new set of energy boosting dishes in support, including a breakfast meal, the Croc-fast, using Tropical Sun’s hand-picked ackees, which are Jamaica’s national fruit and help boost stamina, speed and power.

What does a typical day in your job as Operations Director involve?

There’s no such thing as a typical day! With 150 staff, over 50 agency brands, 10,000 product lines and exports to 28 countries, every day is unique. Tracking sales performance, setting priorities and ensuring the customer experience is on-point, there’s so much to do. I get a buzz from identifying market trends and gaps and developing packaging, positioning and pricing, then watching customers purchase a product I’ve had a hand in developing.

Do you personally get out to see wholesalers?

Making time to visit big clients such as Dhamecha, Bestway and Costco is a crucial part of my role, as is meeting loyal but smaller clients in foodservice and retail. This gives me a bird’s eye view on how best to support customers and drive their sales of our brands.

Your portfolio covers Africa, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. It’s a pretty broad spectrum. What’s the story there?

Wanis began in 1964, initially importing niche products from the Caribbean, India and Africa, giving new immigrants an authentic taste of home. Thanks to the growth in ethnic diversity the business has transformed from a modest retailer to supplying products to wholesale, supermarkets and foodservice. With almost six decades of expertise and a diverse team, our sector knowledge is unrivalled.

Finally, are any other Wanis products doing exciting things in 2019/20?

The next quarter promises to be really exciting. Tropical Sun is launching the UK’s first Jerk flavoured beef and chicken jerky, using exclusively UK and Irish silverside. We are sole agents for exotic drinks brand Tropical Vibes, which is growing phenomenally. We recently introduced Guanabana flavour and will continue to market Tropical Vibes to an urban youth demographic, backed with sampling, sponsorships, social media and promotions.

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