Archives for posts with tag: Food Lovers Market

A smokin’ hot smoker

You gotta love Jamie Oliver. He really is in touch with the food and cultural zeitgeist and reading about his latest idea just underpins my view on this. This week he posted a picture on Instagram of his newly adapted red phone box which is now a working smoker. So triple ticks for him them, tapping into the latest social media route, reflecting the fashion of all things iconically British and promoting a trendy way of preparing food.

Some of my favourite meals lately have included something smoked. Possibly the most surprising was the cigar smoked caramel ice cream which the guys at Chin Chin Laboratorists reckon is the next iteration of the whole salted caramel phenomenon. It was fascinating to taste the new flavour dimension that comes from that smokiness.Other memorable items include most things at Pitt Cue and a truly wonderful kedgeree with home smoked fish from Nikau Cafe in Wellington, New Zealand.

This chef brings new meaning to the whole BBQ method

Top of my list for the ultimate smoked experience is Asador Etxebarri. How could cooking over something as simple as a bespoke wood grill be listed as one of the world’s top 50 restaurants? I need to find out. ┬áPlease don’t go there as I want to be able to get a table!

Pop-a-cob: brilliant snack idea

The other thing I discovered this week is ZaraMama’s pop-a-cob. Now, I have always thought that popcorn was a great snack and believed it to be an opportunity for many retailers. In Cape Town, there was a stand-alone popcorn machine in the wonderful Food Lover’s Market but this product takes the whole popcorn thing to a new convenience. You simply put the whole cob in the bag provided and microwave for 2 minutes. As the kernel bursts open it pops off the cob and fills the bag. Genius!!

The bag is in the pack and microwaves perfectly

…and you are left with this!

Not only is this easy to use and a healthy snack but the corn variety is buttery and crisp making it just the best fresh popcorn. I urge you to go buy it and if my word is not good enough, take it from the Jamie Oliver magazine which calls it “one of the best snack ideas of the 21st Century” …. and you know what I think about him!

I’ve always been a fan of supermarkets and believe they have a necessary and significant place in the food retail universe. Maybe it’s all my years at M&S, but I think it is important to have a place that plays the generalist role for food shopping. This in theory gives the space for specialists like those I have been writing about. And each should know their place in the overall hierarchy so that they deliver against their proposition.

There has certainly been good progress in the supermarket world with great leaders like Archie Norman, Terry Leahy, Justin King and Mark Price really pushing the UK standards over the years. And then there are players who extend the boundaries even further. I remember making many a trip to the wonderful Wholefoods in the US as part of my old M&S role in order to bring back best practices to our teams. Whilst Wholefoods hasn’t translated commercially over here in the UK, there is a lot to be said for the retailing of the Kensington branch and I for one am a big fan of what they deliver in terms of customer experience.

So I was interested when friends in Cape Town were talking about a new supermarket opening. I visited Fruit & Veg City and their Food Lovers Market concept on previous South African trips but heard that this new opening in the less well off suburb of Tokai was a must see.


Food Lovers Market is the third incarnation of Fruit & Veg City which complements the original, produce based outlets and their FreshStop concepts at petrol stations. And it really does cater for the food lover adding an array of wonderful sections to their already impressive produce section.

VM to match Wholefoods

Quality VM consistently maintained

At times, their visual merchandising competes at the same level as Wholefoods, particularly on produce, and there are certainly lots of keen staff around to help you with finding things, tasting things and suggesting recipes. What’s impressive here is not necessarily the number of staff as labour is cheaper here, but their knowledge and skills which have been well trained. Take it from me, that is difficult and rare to consistently achieve in South Africa.

However, the most exciting thing for me is their ability to be spot on with the offer. That is, spot on trend, offering popcorn, bottle your own ozone friendly water, freshly made doughnuts on the bakery section (always the longest queue there) and semi prepared meal solutions:

Traditional popcorn unit

Bottle your own, ozone friendly water unit

Fresh doughnuts made at the bakery counter: batter into fryer into topping.

Always a queue for fresh doughnuts

Added value, prepared meats for this carnivorous nation

They are also spot on with some of the other sections they have created: spices, nibbles, a coffee beanery, bottle your own olive oil and of course biltong, as well as impressive rear service counters for cheese, meat, fish, deli, bakery, salads and hot food to go.

Bag your own spices

Everything you could want to nibble...and more!

Biltong bonanza

Cheese galore

Fish supper anyone?

The other thing they seem to have addressed here is value. The original Fruit & Veg City concept cut out the middle man by working directly with the farmers, having them deliver directly into F&V depots. It seems this same principle is addressed with all the rear service sections cutting out the production third party. This Tokai outlet was packed every time I went and as I said, this is not a wealthy area. My baker friend tells me that the unit price of their bread is crazy cheap, which probably explains the gang of customers waiting literally tongs in hand for the next batch of ciabatta to hit the counter:

Tongs aloft on the right hand side

Not everything is perfect here. The challenge with direct deliveries is consistency of quality which was not always there. I also found the rear service staff less capable than those on the shop floor. But there is still a lot to be taken from here and clearly it is working as there are now 60 Food Lovers Markets to add to the 60 Fruit & Veg City and 66 Freshstops already in the empire.

This is a food emporium worth seeing … but please don’t copy their spelling!

Grares anyone?