The tie up revealed today between health and beauty specialist Boots and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver could prove a game changer in the increasingly competitive food-to-go market.
Oliver has launched a lunchtime food range, Jamie Does Lunch, consisting of both classic (king prawn) and less conventional (Muffuletta focaccia) sandwiches as well as falafels and flatbreads.
The premium range complements the retailer’s existing Shapers meal deal - a promotion which has since been replicated by several of the grocers - and marks the next step in Boots’ assault on the food market.
Earlier this year, Boots ended its partnership selling Waitrose food and Retail Week revealed in May it was looking at expanding its food presence and may even begin selling wine. In August, the retailer tied up with Budgens and Londis owner Musgrave to sell a range of meat, fish and ready meals as its strategy to build its food offer began to take shape.
However, today’s news is significant both for its addition to Boots’ offer and the prestige of Oliver’s inimitable appeal.
Oliver’s TV shows, books and health campaigns have consistently increased his reputation for good quality food while his 10-year partnership with Sainsbury’s made him synonymous with food retail. Last November, Oliver tied up with Morrisons to front an exclusive free-range Christmas turkey deal before his last advert in the £2m a year Sainsbury’s deal had concluded, showing Oliver had no qualms in advertising a different retail brand.
Bringing his name to Boots will give the pharmacist’s lunchtime offer both a point of difference and further credence against cafes and grocers elsewhere on the high street.
Boots’ investment in the lunchtime market evidences what a crucial sector it is becoming. With Britain ever-increasingly a nation of time-poor office workers, a convenient local solution is progressively more in demand. Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s advance on convenient locations with their Local and Express formats respectively evidences this need to be within walking distance of the lunchtime customer.
Tesco’s new Food to Go shop-in-shop, first trialled in Chester in July, where the range of hot and chilled food changes from a breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the day, marks the continued interest in the food-to-go sector.
Similarly, Waitrose is ramping up its on the move offer. Last month, Waitrose managing director Mark Price said: “We are looking to expand our Food to Go offer in our Little Waitrose and high street stores. We’ve been pleased with how popular Food to Go is and in London stores people will often even buy a sandwich for dinner.
“We are looking how to offer a breakfast, lunch and dinner offer and our coffee is so popular we are a strong competitor to Pret, Eat and the coffee shops.”
However, it will not be easy for retailers to penetrate an already crowded market. Eat, Pret a Manger, Subway and Greggs already have large store estates while Costa Coffee and Starbucks, although synonymous with coffee, have a lunchtime range.
The grocers will be hoping customers familiar with their ranges will move over to their hot food to go offers while Boots will hope Oliver delivers a pukka pick-up in its food custom.
Boots teams up with Jamie Oliver for lunchtime range
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Analysis: How will Boots' Jamie Oliver tie up affect the food-to-go market?