Sunday, March 18, 2007

Spicing up the UK - Taste of Malaysia in London

GIVEN its reputation as the world’s most expensive city, eating out in London is almost always a costly affair.

For the Malaysian student community here, the affordable options during meal times are either to go for ready-to-eat food or share the cooking costs at home.

But sourcing for oriental ingredients can be an exasperating experience, unless one lives near Chinatown or one of the Asian grocery stores in the city’s more culturally-diverse areas.

Aggressive push: The promotional materials for Taste of Malaysia in London. — Picture courtesy of Tesco Malaysia
Unlike back home, it’s not easy to find your favourite Malaysian gravy sauce, curry powder, exotic spices or even instant noodles at the neighbourhood store.

Don’t despair, though. The scenario may well change in future if the upcoming Taste of Malaysia promotion in London can successfully flood the UK market with a fresh wave of Malaysian products.

Held in conjunction with Visit Malaysia 2007, the week-long campaign starting tomorrow is the biggest Malaysian food fest jointly organised by Tesco UK/Malaysia and the Malaysian Government.

Underlining the importance of the event, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal will personally lead a delegation of nearly 30 Malaysian manufacturers and suppliers to meet with Tesco UK buyers and other British retailers.

The minister is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at a business matching session between the two groups on Thursday, followed by the campaign launch at the Tesco Extra Hypermarket in Slough the next day.

Indeed, more than 100 product lines including traditional gravy sauce, chilli sauce and ketchup as well as spices, frozen food, snacks and cookies have been specially flown in for the promotion.

A total of 15 Tesco stores in and around London such as those at upmarket Kensington and in culturally mixed locations like Slough, Milton Keynes, Gallions Reach, New Malden, Lea Valley, New Oscott, Purley and Twickenham are involved.

Malaysian cuisine

Chris Bush, CEO of Tesco Malaysia, drove home the message that Malaysian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) produce quality and innovative products that were on a par with the world’s standards.

“Realising this, we are more than happy to assist in introducing the locally-made products to the UK market,” he said in expressing optimism that they would be well accepted in Britain.

Tesco Malaysia corporate and legal affairs director Azlam Shah Alias said the products were selected because of their unique tastes and flavour that reflected the finest of traditional Malaysian cuisine.

“The programme is not just about displaying the items at the sales floor but to also enable the Malaysian suppliers to meet Tesco buyers and discuss their business goals and objectives,” he added.

Beyond that, the campaign has opened the gateway for Malaysian SMEs to introduce themselves as well as promote their products and brands to the international market.

The business-matching session promises to be an interesting affair, as the Malaysians strive to share their product knowledge and information with their British counterparts while forging a better understanding of Tesco UK’s requirements and the UK market.

Towards this end, more than 60 major and medium-scale British companies including the big boys like Bestways, National Halal Food and Chadha Oriental have confirmed their participation in the business meeting.

Launching pad

Matrade London trade commissioner Abu Bakar Koyakutty said their main objective was to increase the market penetration of Malaysian foodstuff in the UK.

“We’re using Tesco as the launching pad to expand to other major retail chains like Asda, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer,” he said.

He said they hoped to import RM1bil worth of halal food from Malaysia sooner than the targeted five years committed by Tesco.

Abu Bakar said he had also discussed with Tesco’s furniture-buying division the option of looking towards Malaysia for such products.

“We’re reaching out to multiple markets with the confidence that Malaysia is capable of supplying non-food items as well,” he said, adding that Argos, one of the UK’s biggest retailers, had just returned from a trade mission in Malaysia initiated by Matrade.

Ultimately, Matrade’s objective is that all Tesco stores as well as other British retail chains like Asda, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer will eventually sell more Malaysian products.

With the big Malaysian community in Britain, including some 12,000 Malaysian students, there’s certainly no shortage of market for Buatan Malaysia foodstuff.

Thus, the day will come when one can just hop over to the nearest store to pick up Malaysian ready-to-eat meals such as satay, rotai canai, asam laksa, chicken rendang, oriental noodles or even steamed buns.

Source : STAR
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