THE Taste of Malaysia campaign may have ended but the rich aroma of exotic spices and curry powder lingers on, especially in the minds of food lovers.
Suffice to say, the week-long promotion at 15 Tesco hypermarkets in and around London recently has whetted the appetite of Britons.
And it’s not just the Malaysian community and their Asian friends but also the Mat Sallehs who are clamouring for Malaysian cuisine nowadays.
Well, they can soon look forward to picking up a wider range of Malaysian foodstuffs from 350 Tesco stores across the country.
Indeed, we’re not talking of a dozen or so items but over 100 of your favourite Malaysian delicacies if they can earn their rightful space on the shelves.
The next few months will be crucial, as the products will come under strict scrutiny, including getting customer feedback and evaluation, to gauge their popularity in the market.
Currently, only nine Malaysian food products – five types of sauces and four varieties of biscuits – are permanently stocked as part of Tesco’s Asian range in stores located in areas with large Asian communities.
Considering that a typical hypermarket stocks over 50,000 lines of products, the ratio can certainly be improved given the culturally- diverse background of its customers.
But if the items do get the go ahead, an assortment of delicious ready-made meals such as chicken or curry noodles, fish curry, roti canai, curry puffs and even jam and sardines will be available.
The campaign has no doubt provided a wonderful opportunity for Malaysia’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to showcase their products in the British market.
Tesco Plc corporate affairs director David Cox remained upbeat about the promotion, saying the marketing of Malaysia and its products had been a huge success.
He said the initial reaction from store managers was that all the items were selling very well.
“Our customers have responded favourably towards the campaign and they want to know more about Malaysia,” he added.
The exposure augurs well for the country in the wake of Tourism Malaysia’s target of attracting 400,000 British visitors during Visit Malaysia 2007.
Those who had visited Malaysia before must have been particularly pleased to see their favourite food on sale in the UK.
In fact, the additional range would be available in stores in central London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and other urban centres that have large Malaysian and Asian communities.
Having said that, the British themselves are no stranger to spicy curries and chilli sauce; whole families are known to have tucked into curries on Sundays instead of the traditional English spread such as roast beef.
Darren Jones, senior manager of Tesco Slough Hypermarket where the campaign was launched, is impressed with the Malaysian products after having tried them for the first time.
“I’ve tasted the meat curries and chicken dishes and they’re absolutely good,” he said, adding that he has now stocked them up in his kitchen.
Jones said the customers had responded positively towards the products and pricing during the food sampling sessions and cooking demonstrations.
“We’re confident of the sales and I’m seeking more product information from the Malaysian suppliers,” he said, adding that it would be worthwhile to have more promotions in future.
Pick the brains
Beyond that, there’s little doubt that the campaign has provided Malaysian SMEs with a significant boost and kick-started their entry into the UK market.
Even the business-matching session exceeded all expectations, with an astonishing RM648,600 in sales secured in just five hours of business networking between the Malaysians and their British counterparts.
The sales were clinched between six Malaysian SMEs and British retailers during Matrade’s Meet-the-Buyers’ session, while another RM17.89mil in potential sales were recorded.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal drove home the message that the campaign was not just confined to Tesco UK but could also extend to European countries like France and Germany.
He was also quick to point out that the smart partnership should not be confined to the food sector alone but also involve other products such as electrical items.
The Malaysian SMEs, however, must be mindful of the need to change their mindset and business models to remain cost-efficient and respond to market conditions and consumer demands.
They should take the opportunity to pick the brains of British retail giants like Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer to gain an insight into their success stories.
For instance, Tesco’s remarkable achievement – rising from a humble market stall in London in 1919 to over 2,800 stores in 12 countries employing 380,000 workers – certainly provides a valuable lesson for all.
They have shown their way through a combination of entrepreneurial leadership, hard work, innovativeness and the astuteness to respond to changing needs and demands.
Such attributes, as stated by the minister, are the business building blocks that all SMEs can follow to become major contributors to Malaysia’s economic well-being.
Source : STAR
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