Does Waitrose have speciality food market sewn up?

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Retail Times editor, Fiona Briggs, argues all the top supermarkets should be focusing on speciality and fine foods

Waitrose: speciality sewn up?

Waitrose is leading the field in speciality and fine foods if my visit to this week’s Speciality & Fine Foods Fair at London’s Olympia is anything to go by.

It was by far the dominant supermarket named by exhibitors as a stockist of their gourmet and artisan lines and by a long, long, long way.

Now I know smaller producers often like to focus on upmarket delis and farm shops and would rather cut off their hands than feature on the shelves of a larger multiple, but it is a sad indictment for the UK supermarket sector if only Waitrose is viewed as a purveyor of specialty (possibly translate to quality) food.

Sainsbury’s was mentioned to me twice, Tesco and Asda only once a piece; and Morrisons didn’t even get on to the radar at the show. Strangely, Marks & Spencer, often placed in the same premium bracket as Waitrose, wasn’t referenced at the event either.

Yet, given the trend to all things local and British-made and home-grown, surely our top supermarkets should be leading the way in promoting speciality and regional food and drink products?

Why can’t speciality foods and go hand in hand with supermarkets? As a consumer, I’d want to know my supermarket buyers are out on the hunt for new fine food products. And, I’d hope they would be as excited about the stories behind the smaller producers as I am; help to nurture their brands and bring them to a wider audience.

Hats off to Waitrose for getting their first but other supermarkets should also have the wherewithal to offer something ‘special’.