If you wander around Waitrose, you might notice a bunch of new products have hit the shelves targeting key trends areas across food-to-go, frozen and Asian eats.
The supermarket chain has revamped its food-to-go range to tap into a market that is predicted to be worth £21.2bn this year, according to research from HIM and MCA.
It’s also gone hard on frozen with 24 new SKUs in response to a 500% spike in searches for frozen ready meals on its website. Sales figures in general show a slow but steady move towards more premium options in this area too. Average prices rose 0.6% over the past year which, coupled with rising volumes, pushed up value sales 3.4%, according to Kantar data, putting the total value of the frozen market at £6.3bn.
On the run
Waitrose has left no eating occasion unturned, with its food-to-go range offering a mix of convenient, healthy and indulgent options across breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There’s a mixed berry Bircher muesli to start the day, while those looking for a lighter dinner can tuck into a chicken, rice and bean bowl with a creamed corn and tahini dip.
But its at lunchtime that Waitrose has really ramped up the selection, from wrap and salad combos to sandwiches. Options include a halloumi wrap and couscous salad – a spinach tortilla wrap with pea and mint spread, roasted peppers, lentils and tomatoes that is accompanied by a chickpea, lentil and couscous salad with herb dressing – as well as a harissa chicken wrap and tabbouleh salad.
Other highlights include a soup transformed into sandwich inspiration (the ham hock and pea crush sandwich on soft grain bread, £2.40), the vegan miso roasted sweet potato in a Habanero chilli wrap (£2.80), plus a British classic: coronation chicken salad with almonds (£3.25).
There's even an Afternoon Tea Selection sandwich pack for those who don’t have time to linger, featuring a trio of the nation's favourites: traditional ham, egg and cress, and cream cheese and cucumber.
New culinary cred
Luxury doesn’t have to be left behind when it comes to frozen food, according to Waitrose, which has created a range that features innovative cooking techniques such as sous vide and en papillote, a method of cooking in which the food is put into a folded pouch or parcel and then baked.
New additions include an Italian-inspired slow-cooked pork belly, which is cooked 'sous vide' for eight hours with garlic, herbs and citrus zest by specialists in slow cooking based on the banks of the Menai Straits. The focus on provenance is noticeable in other items too: the slow-cooked beef and ale pie, a rich and intense beef filling encased in a crisp puff pastry, is created by a family-run business.
For those looking to go meat-free, there’s a king prawn and miso ramen with fresh noodles, broccoli florets and spring onion, which can be cooked on the hob straight from frozen and is ready in five minutes.
But Asian-inspired cuisine isn’t just appearing in frozen. New to the chilled section are an Asian fusion siu mai – wonton parcels filled with pork, diced prawns, spring onion and ginger – and classics like chicken pad Thai. Heading around the region for inspiration, there is also a Korean barbecue pork and sticky rice as well as Chinese chicken in ginger.
Plant-based eaters are also catered for with the red Thai tofu curry and sweet potato katsu bites.
Food Spark has previously noted the reinvention of bread and Waitrose has also jumped on the bandwagon, giving the humble loaf a makeover with a new range of baked and pre-packed loaves.
Showstoppers in the range include goat's cheese and red pepper focaccia and pizza ciabatta rolls. There’s also a brown San Francisco sourdough and the poppy seed demi-baguette, which the supermarket suggests is great for brunch or a chunky, rustic-style sandwiches.
Has Sparkie spotted some new options for the shopping basket?
The only thing that jumps out about this really is the additional story they are selling with parts of the new range. Things like ‘created by a family-run business’ and ‘specialists in slow cooking on the banks of the Menai straights’ will jump out to consumers in times where provenance and authenticity is growing in value.
The products themselves don’t seem all that innovative really, just more of what is expected at the moment. I could definitely envisage more of the descriptive language being used in new products though – the hard sell definitely seems to be the way forward.