Outer Front_

I sometimes wonder if it is ever possible to come up with something genuinely new in the food world. Of course, there are unusual flavour combinations defined as fusion food, or a merging of two things into one, like the cronut. We are now so engaged with food that all we can do is merge ideas into something which gives added value or a quirky marketing message, rather than create new news.

I know that my mind works on the combinations, connecting the dots in an unusual way. I like to open myself up to seeing what is out there and some time after, whether it’s in the bath or in a subconscious dream, I come up with something that I think will make a difference in my little food retail world. The hardest thing is to figure out whether it is madness or something that would actually catch on.

So when I proposed a new way to do picnics to the team at Melrose and Morgan, it was with trepidation. Over the past few months, we have honed and developed that initial thought into something that we launch on Monday and that is really exciting for me.

Cheese Tray_

The Cheese Board including M’s baby buffalo brie


The idea came from a wide variety of thoughts and experiences. It was a nod to the fact that we all like to bespoke our food these days, that a picnic can feed a lot of people and you need to offer choice, and something that is flexible for my team to talk about in the shops. We pulled the concept together under a ‘PicMix and Match’ banner, creating a range of boards: cheese, meat, fish, vegetarian, sweet, including products from new suppliers to us including a baby buffalo brie from my friend M and wonderful cured meats from Cobble Lane Cured. They all come parcelled up so ideal for one or two, or you can stack them up together to build a really great picnic for lots to share.

I guess the idea is, as I said in my introduction, not a new one. But the really interesting thing for me was to see the concept in my head evolve, whilst working with the team, into a new design that I am so excited about. The trays themselves were difficult to source, as I find most packaging is. You really have to wade through a lot of samples to get both the sizes, quality, spec and price just right. But that was nothing compared to the outer wrap which hung the whole concept together.

There is no doubt if you trawl the internet and review Pinterest for packaging that cardboard engineered wrappers have evolved over the years. You can see some of the products that inspired me on my board here. But there is a very long journey to be taken from having something in your mind to figuring out how to deliver hundreds of them into your shop within a couple of months.

Packaging and Ponchos_

Clever local map idea from N


Our in house designer really did embrace the brief and brought it to life quickly. My marketing colleague spent many an hour folding bits of A4 paper into strange origami shapes that looked like mini handbags to see how we could design the mechanic. N had a brainwave for the inside print and the Chairman figured out how to seal the boxes properly. What none of us had fully appreciated was the role of the engineer in all this. Sadly my A level Physics allowed me to see where the fault was, but not how to solve it. We were able to stack up the boxes with the right weight inside, but as we ‘travel tested’ (read swinging stacks of cardboard trays in an outer around the office) the handle was not holding the weight. It was my sheer pig headedness that forced us not to drop the idea. We could easily have resorted to what we did last year, but one of the things I love about Melrose and Morgan is the fact that they have been leaders in their field from the very first shop which opened over ten years ago. So I kept on pushing.

Three weeks ago we had our final meeting. We had the contents sorted, the margins calculated, the inner trays sourced and the supplier on board to deliver the outers. Samples were sent. Cardboard mock ups were coated, different thicknesses and finishes on hand and we stacked up the boxes ready to fling around the office. I have to admit I was barely peeking out of the corner of my eye fearing that the handle would once again give and my concept would be thwarted. But wait. One small swing and all looked fine – two, three….in fact we gave that outer the time of it’s life and yes. It was fine!

One week later we were sending a sample to the Evening Standard which resulted in this. And at the end of last week, we had all our staff trained and excited about selling this new picnic selection.

So please, pop in or call us at Melrose and Morgan and enjoy a new PicMix and Match. It is something I am very proud of and I hope you will be too.

The back of the outer with our favourite London picnic spots

The back of the outer with our favourite London picnic spots