Archives for posts with tag: picnic

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I found out this weekend that my picnic concept won in the Wallpaper Design Awards 2016. Created this Summer I was trying to bring something new and innovative to the offer at Melrose and Morgan and it seems I achieved that.

It is always difficult to come up with something truly original especially in the food retail world as it is so full and fast moving. However I am a strong believer in innovation driving success in business and that meant that I had to come up with something new that would meet the demand of my customers, the approval of the team and also stand out from the crowd.

I had been collating interesting packaging ideas on my Pinterest board for some time and it was clear that there were lots of great new designs using cardboard engineering to replace more costly and cumbersome solutions. I find Pinterest a great way of saving creative ideas especially as I am such a visual person and you can see elements of various projects I have worked on over the years grounded in my different boards.

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Added to that was the fact that people’s tastes in food have been changing a lot. The traditional wicker basket hamper felt too staid and restrictive to me. Some people may want to plan a full blanketed, basket based experience but I think we are increasingly spontaneous in our food requests these days especially where outdoor eating is concerned. We Brits like to take advantage of the good weather and as it is pretty unpredictable I felt we needed an offer which was flexible. It could be a few pieces of great cheese, with crackers, tomatoes, chutney and a bottle of wine as much as an organised spread for 12 to lay out in the park.

In addition I wanted to give my shops a more flexible solution to selling picnics because I think it is challenging for shop floor staff to sell a high priced item in a fast moving casual retail experience. By bringing in a set of trays for two people to mix and match I was able to get more choice on display, better perceived value and arm the team with something that they could get behind every day for a variety of customer needs.

A search online brought the inner boxes that I needed to light which was most definitely the easy part. And populating the ingredients of each box: Meat; Cheese; Fish; Veggie; Dessert was as simple as cherry picking from our great supply base and engineering to fit the boxes (and the margin!) – a bit of work but all within the realms of a days work.

The hard bit was the cardboard outer that really pulled the whole thing together. The design brief was fairly simple once we hit upon the idea of selling where in London to have a picnic and the maps inside were well created by the team. But the specification of the cardboard itself proved to be the challenge. The general shape was dictated by the inner boxes, but the handle and its ability to hold all the contents without ripping was more about engineering and I have to say this is not my forte.

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Many a trial of swinging the contents back and forth in the office resulted in packets of smoked salmon and pots of desserts tumbling all over the floor. It was all too easy to just walk away but that’s just not in my nature. We asked advice of the printer, of qualified specialists and in the end my colleague’s hubby, who proved the most helpful and a week before launch, a day before the team were going to tell me to give it all up, and on our fifth attempt we quietly, tentatively built our picnic, lifted it carefully off the desk, gave it a small swing, then a larger one and finally a swing that was more appropriate to engaging a child at play and hallelujah. The cardboard held.

Over the Summer we had some great press pick up from Harpers Bazaar and Wallpaper to Grazia and Stylenest for our new picnic and it was satisfying to see our customers respond so well to the offer even though the weather didn’t exactly play its part. By the end of September we had seen good sales growth and it was a campaign success for us.

The icing on the cake came this weekend with the news that Wallpaper had recognised the design as award winning. As someone who loves design and creativity I am very proud to have the work we all contributed to getting this made given such a prominent accolade. Now all I have to do is think of something to move it on for next year!WinnerBadge_2016

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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.

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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.

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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