Purchasing expert Lynx considers the state of upcoming winter produce and encourages caterers to get planning. Lisa Jenkins reports
Caterers need to hold their nerve and negotiate the best possible prices with suppliers when ordering Christmas turkeys and other seasonal essentials this year, advises buying specialist Lynx Purchasing. With producers benefiting from lower feed and fuel costs, the challenge for operators is making sure they get their fair share of the upside in terms of wholesale prices.
The newly published Autumn 2015 edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast sets out some of the main supply issues affecting the industry, across the autumn and into the peak Christmas season. "With inflation still low and good availability for most British produce, there needs to be festive goodwill all round," says Lynx Purchasing managing director John Pinder.
"There's always a temptation for suppliers to hold back some of the savings they make when margins are good in order to balance the bad times. Nobody begrudges farmers and food producers the chance to make a little more in the current market, but it's only fair that operators see some of the benefits too. None of us know how long the current benign conditions will last, but we're unlikely to get too far into 2016 without something upsetting the status quo."
Pinder adds: "In the current market, there's an opportunity for producers, wholesalers and operators to spread the upside and each take their share of the opportunity presented by the good quality, price and availability offer on Christmas turkeys, as well as other seasonal menu staples, such as ham and smoked salmon.
"Of course, operators need to have their Christmas menus and pricing in place in good time to start securing bookings, and so there's a tendency to take the price being offered rather than risk missing out. However, for those with the nerve to negotiate, there are definitely opportunities to get a better deal.
"Remember, suppliers also want security and certainty, and the Christmas food order from a busy restaurant or pub with party bookings right through December is well worth them ‘talking turkey' to agree a price that works for everybody."
Based on exclusive market insight from across the Lynx Purchasing's supplier partners, along with official ONS data on the economy, the Market Forecast helps caterers plan ahead. Below are listed some of the key seasonal products featured in the forecast.
Turkey and poultry
All pork cuts represent a great option for autumn and winter, with prices flat and ample supply expected going forward. Seasonal dishes, such as spiced ham and gammon, will be very cost-effective options on Christmas menus.
Salmon prices will remain stable through the rest of the year, due to plentiful supply as the Russian embargo on European produce continues, making smoked salmon an excellent option for sit-down menus and buffets.
The picture is less rosy for this mainstay of seasonal menus, due to a number of factors. Global demand continues to grow, especially in countries such as China, while production in the UK, Ireland and USA has declined.
Ireland has now been approved to export more to the US, diverting supplies from the UK market, while the strong pound affects beef imported from elsewhere in Europe. With retailers keen to secure available supplies and often wiling to subsidise the price paid by their customers, the catering sector should expect the price of beef to continue to rise.
Away from the festive market, there are other notable trends featured in the Market Forecast.
Strict quotas on haddock are expected to limit supplies and raise prices until stocks recover, which may take some years. While new cod quotas mean the Icelandic fleet is now catching good supplies from the North Sea, for the sake of sustainability, caterers are urged to vary fish menus and promote alternative white fish such as pollock, hake and coley.
Day boats are also currently still landing good catches, although this will drop off as the weather worsens.
Very high temperatures across much of Europe this summer have affected the quality and availability of citrus crops, with the Valencian orange harvest not looking good for November. From further afield, the supply of limes is likely to be affected by a very strong El NiÁ±o, which affects South America over the winter. Pineapple is also in short supply, driving up prices. Caterers looking for alternatives for desserts and sauces should consider South African plums, peaches and nectarines and Chilean cherries, all of which are in good supply.
As with citrus, the European heatwave has affected vegetable production. The impact is being felt on tinned tomatoes, a staple export of Italy, while the Dutch potato crop has also suffered.
With Holland a major supplier and processor of frozen chips and other 'added value' frozen potato products, prices are likely to be higher across the winter and into 2016.
While the official CPI inflation measure was 0% in August 2014, the more detailed RPI measure showed a few items bucking the trend. These included home-killed lamb, up 4.8% as demand increased, and processed fruit, up 1.5% in the face of the various production issues around the world.
Generally, however, the RPI inflation measure shows a decline in prices for a range of staples (see below).
Lynx Purchasing offers a free, no-contract service that enables businesses to buy the highest-quality products and services at the most competitive prices.
Lynx has an effective and experienced team of purchasing experts who help hospitality and catering businesses buy better, manage their costs and operate more profitably.
Lynx already works with a wide range of catering businesses, including hotels, restaurants, pubs, care homes and the education sector.
To download the free Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator app, endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs, search for GP Calculator in the iTunes store or on GooglePlay. You can also keep up to date with Lynx Purchasing through Twitter by following @lynxpurchasing.