Waitrose has revealed it will begin supplying products to pan-European train service Eurostar from tomorrow. Retail Week looks at the implications for the grocer.

When the first train of the day pulls out of St Pancras station tomorrow, tourists, day-trippers and business people in standard class will be able to snack on a variety of Waitrose products from a tapas selection to the famous French Croque Monsieur.

It is a testament to the quality of the upmarket grocer’s own brand credentials that the luxury travel brand has chosen it to complement a business class offer devised by Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc. The move represents Waitrose’s first major move into the foodservice industry and will complement a growing international export offer. It builds on its supply deal to British Airways flights via Club Kitchens launched last year.

The grocer will hope to increase its presence in Northern Europe where it currently only supplies a handful of stores in France and Belgium.

Waitrose has been open that the deal, while modest, is significant. Mintel retail director Richard Perks believes it is a smart move. “It is another feather in Waitrose’s cap. It has the ability and range to meet the demands of a reasonably upmarket customer and it is an interesting step into foodservice.”

Waitrose has steadily built up its export business in recent years and now supplies retailers in 45 countries from nations with strong British links including the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Australia to a number of countries across Asia.

Last year Waitrose grew its exports business by more than 20% to represent a turnover of £25m and this figure has more than trebled in the last five years. Its nine franchise stores in the Middle East, in partnership with Fine Fare Food Market, are said to be performing well following their launch in 2008. It has also not been afraid to experiment, entering the market in Ibiza through pureplay Ibiza Delivers rather than a traditional store business.

Waitrose’s increasingly large export business has opened up a revenue stream with strong growth opportunities for its niche but liked brand. The growth of its export business mirrors that of frozen specialist Iceland – which sits at the other end of the grocery market – which has also built a strong export business through utilising its own brand new product development.

This is a new business area for Waitrose but there remains plenty of opportunity for growth in the UK for Waitrose through new stores and online sales and the main focus of the business will continue to be on domestic growth.

Furthermore, Perks does not believe that Waitrose will begin opening further shops overseas. “Waitrose has always been so careful in chosing store sites and getting the right catchment areas. It is still something of a niche player and has plenty of growth yet in the UK,” he says.

Waitrose may be on a lightening quick trip to Paris but it will be British beef rather than baguettes which will continue to be its bread and butter.