Fire up the grill: this summer’s top own-label items

A look at this year’s product development for the barbecue.

13 June 2019
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According to Just Eat research from May, Britons will participate in 323m barbecues this summer – around seven per adult. However, that figure is dependent on having good weather, which makes the next few months one of the trickiest times for retailers, as their investment in BBQ product development could either reap big benefits or be a complete washout.

That hasn’t kept the major players from trying to provide fresh excitement this season, from international flavours and fun formats to a slew of plant-based innovation. Here, Food Spark picks some of the highlights.

Asda

“Taking inspiration from cuisines around the world – including Mediterranean tapas, delicious smoky barbecue meats from America and lighter, Asian-inspired fish dishes we’ve created an all-encompassing summer menu perfect for all occasions,” said Mark Richmond, head innovation development chef at Asda.

Starting with the small plates, the supermarket has a broad range of options, going from Indian inspired lentil dahl dip (£1/pot) – a much-needed update on hummus – to goat’s cheese and caramelised onion parcels, wrapped in beetroot pastry (£2/six).

Forget wagyu burgers – how about a wagyu hot dog! These gluten-free babies are made from a mixture of prime British wagyu beef and British pork, hoping to entice consumers with a hint of luxury at the modest price of £3 for four.

While the Extra Special steak burger made with flat iron steak is a favourite for Linsey Taylor, senior director of new product development at Asda, we’ve got our eye on the donut burger (£1.97/2): a patty with a whole in the middle that’s ideal in a bagel.

Pork belly cubes appear to be a bit of an ‘it’ ingredient in this year’s summer ranges. At Asda, they’re marinated in a tangy BBQ sauce (£4 per 500g) for the Extra Special range.

Pasta on a pizza was trending a few months ago, but Asda has adapted the idea to work with that British favourite the kebab. Loaded with spicy chicken, jalapenos and garlic mayonnaise, the kebab pizza (£2.50/10 inches) is dubbed “the perfect combination of everyone’s favourite takeaway treats.”

Finally, we’ve got the plant-powered bites: vegan cheese on red onion burgers and red pepper sausages.

Sainsbury’s

“When it comes to meat for the grill, our customers are increasingly looking for cuts with added value, opting for pre-marinated skewers and steaks which offer a guaranteed pop of flavour,” said Claire Hughes, the head of quality and innovation at Sainsbury’s.

To fulfil that need, the supermarket is selling items like the British chicken mini fillet kebabs, marinated in rum, coconut and pineapple for a Caribbean-style spin (£4/295g) and the Sqwirl (£3.50/600g), a 1.8m-long spiral sausage that’s seasoned with paprika and chilli.

The Sqwirl isn’t the only quirky format coming out of the NPD kitchens at Sainsbury’s this year. With Love Island back once more, the retailer is hoping punters will fall head over heels for its Love Burgers: heart-shaped patties topped with cheddar cheese (£2/two). Not quite as eye-catching but just as fun are the British pork belly bites: cubes of cayenne-rubbed pig slow cooked over five hours and sold with a sticky-sweet sauce (£4/380g).

For vegetarians, the Love Your Veg range has added a couple of Vegbabs, selling at £2.50 for four: Moroccan (featuring chickpeas, apricots and North African spices) and katsu (Japanese curry flavourings made with blended cauliflower, lentils and mushroom).

International influences suffuse this year’s summer offering, from the Love Your Veg pulled jackfruit empanadas, spiced with lemongrass and red chilli (£2/six), to the sweetcorn fritters with chilli and lime dressing (£2/six) and the prawn lollipops with soy and ginger dip (£2.25/four).

Also announced but not yet on sale are the salmon sausages, described as the “first of their kind” and promising to combine the best bits of a hot dog and grilled fish.

The Co-op

“We have taken inspiration from food trends from around the globe to select our key flavour profiles of pineapple, coconut, miso and harissa that we feel evoke memories of past summers. Our ‘summer of colour’ range also looks to British seasonal produce heroes to bring colour to our foods – from beetroot to blackcurrants,” said Breige Donaghy, director of delicious food at The Co-op.

When it comes to the barbecue, the supermarket has focused particularly on the evergreen popularity of Chinese cuisine, including Chinese-style pork ribs (£4/440g) and Chinese-style chicken wings (£3.79/kilo), alongside more broad flavours in the Asian-style pork loin steaks (£4/380g) and skinny Asian slaw (£1.95/200g).

All the burgers and sausages have been formulated to ensure they are gluten free, from Irresistible Southern-style burger buns (£1/two) to Irresistible beef rib burgers (£3.20/324g).

Like both Sainsbury’s and Asda, The Co-op has its own version of pork belly, but with strips instead of cubes, marinated in a lemon and herb sauce (£4/390g). The retailer also launched its first vegan burger earlier this year in both chilled and frozen versions. Dubbed the Incredible Burger (£2/two), it’s made using soya and chickpea flour, with beetroot juice incorporated to give it that natural, meaty colour.

In addition to the Irresistible salt and vinegar Scotch egg (£1.50/120g) – a slight taste tweak on tradition – there’s also been some experimentation with other ways to reinvent this classic picnic food, resulting in three new flavours: coronation chicken bites; pork, beetroot and feta bites; and chicken, spinach and pesto bites (£2/160g).

Waitrose & Partners

This retailer’s seitan burger patty (£2.99/two) caused quite a stir online after launching in May, claiming a UK supermarket first.

Simona Cohen-Vida, Waitrose & Partners vegetarian and vegan product developer, said at the time: “We are really excited to be launching the first seitan burger. The modern barbecue is an inclusive affair with delicious products catering to all tastes and demands and we are thrilled to be able to offer a fantastic selection of vegan options.”

These options also include Korean-inspired vegetable burgers (made from beans, soya protein and rice, £2.75/two), ‘sausage’ whirls (£2.99/three) in two flavours – Italian (roasted garlic, fennel, basil, porcini powder and sun-dried tomatoes) and Spanish (paprika, cumin, roasted garlic, chilli flakes and sun-dried tomatoes) – and vegan kofta kebabs made with chickpeas, brown rice, carrots and onions, flavoured with Tandoori spices (£2.99/280g).

More Indian influences are on display in the chicken chops in chaat masala – ginger, cumin, coriander, mango and chilli being the major notes (£4/720g) – while venison steaks with cherry ketchup (£6.99/four) tap into cautious consumer interest in game. 

M&S

Korean flavours are another recurring theme in this year’s BBQ offerings. At M&S, that includes a Korean-style flat iron steak (£10/578g) marinated in gochujang, ginger, garlic and soy sauce. There’s also a garlic and herb version of the British beef cut.

The retailer has brought back its Best Ever Burger for the summer, made with brisket, shortrib, sirloin, chuck steak and bone marrow, adding a new SKU that includes cheese, gherkins, mustard and tomatoes.

M&S’ Plant Kitchen range, launched at the beginning of 2019, is still going strong, with the No Beef Burgers (£12/eight) and the No Pork Sausoyges (£6/six) both perfect for meat-free barbies. Made from soya, the former is seasoned with vegetable suet, dried onions, bay leaves and paprika extract, while the latter attempts to emulate the classic Cumberland style.

We haven’t talked much about on-trend spices, but M&S has certainly included them in its deli-style summer salads, from the turmeric-spiced cauliflower and potato salad (£12/670g) to the smashed beetroot with cumin, red onion and dukkah-spiced sunflower seeds (£8/540g).

Aldi

It looks like most retailers have been taking note of the increased British tolerance for spice. At Aldi, that has translated into a couple of Specially Selected beef steaks marinated in spicy rubs: sriracha for the more tentative and habanero chilli for the more hardcore (both £2.99/300g).

The retailer also experimented with a couple of Specialbuys over the late May bank holiday, including two products that played with tastes from America’s Deep South: Texas pork burnt ends (the point end of a brisket) and Texas BBQ footlong (£1.99) – the latter is making a return, with a slight tweak, for Father’s Day, appearing in a South Carolina edition.

Not to be left out of the plant-based market, Aldi has released four new frozen products under the Mae’s Kitchen brand. Two of these, the No Beef Burger and the No Chicken Burger (£1.99/two), are designed to replicate the real thing, while the Superfood Burgers contain a nutrient-packed mix of quinoa, couscous, pumpkin seeds, butternut squash, red pepper and sweet potato.

Finally, the No Sausage Rolls are made using soya and work out to just 30p a piece (£1.19/four).

“The launch of our new vegan range is in response to our growing, ethically inspired customer base, looking for delicious alternatives to meat and another example of our ongoing commitment to cater for all diets, at everyday low prices,” said Julie Ashfield, MD of Buying at Aldi. “We look forward to expanding our vegan offering even further over the coming months.”

Morrisons

The big boy here is the British beef and bone marrow burger (£3/two), which was named the best own-label classic burger by BBC Good Food a couple of weeks ago.

Morrisons has also embarked on a partnership with independent brewers Saltaire to create both a new beef and ale burger for the barbecue (£3/two) and pork and ale sausages (£3/eight).

Mango and lime obviously did well for the retailer last year because this year the marinade is back, slathered on turkey steak (£3/320g) and mini chicken fillets (£3/350g).

You may have noticed a pattern here with the pricing, and the continues for the piri piri turkey kebabs (£3/260g), which have a mild chilli rating of 2.

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