Food Under Focus News Articles
Culinary alcohol supplier Thomas Lowndes has the foodservice
sector in its sights with its new sweet and savoury lines
Choose any boozy dessert in a retail outlet and the chance of the
spirit belonging to Thomas Lowndes is pretty high. The company’s
aim is now to make the same happen in foodservice. What started
as a small company in 1826 in London’s docklands importing
Jamaican rum and Dutch Geneva gin has, through a number of guises,
become the UK’s leading culinary alcohol supplier.
Nowadays Thomas Lowndes is a subsidiary of the £3.29bn turnover
Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine business, and the massive drinks
cabinet it has access to contains some of the industry’s biggest
brands – Beefeater gin, Harvey’s Bristol Cream, Drambuie,
Courvoisier, Laphroaig, Malibu, Sauza and Tia Maria, to name a few.
Supplying branded alcohol to food manufacturers as well as the
multiple retailers for their own label dessert ranges, has helped
bring in a turnover in excess of £5m and it is steadily growing.
In 2003 there was a marked increase in the use of branded alcohol
in food with volume increasing by 36% year on year.
Recently appointed general manager John Meyer says the rise in
2003 was due to the shift from generic products to brands like Courvoisier
by manufacturers moving more into branded alcohol.
“It’s mainly seasonal for alcohol flavoured food and
around 65%-70% of business is done over the Christmas selling period.
But we do have all year round products and part of our new strategy
for foodservice is to deseasonalise,” says Meyer.
Adding alcohol to food is a trend that continues to grow. Alcohol
can be applied to any sweet or savoury dish. Cream works well with
a splash of alcohol where the high fat content acts as an ideal
carrier. Fat molecules present in cream are hard to penetrate, but
once locked in, the flavour delivery is strong and does not fade
over time. Alcohol used in chilled and frozen formats has consistently
good results, although the freezing point will be affected in frozen
products such as ice cream. It also increases shelf life and acts
as a meat tenderiser. The company says that once a concept has been
formulated, all the ingredients are blended together to reach the
required texture and flavour. Lower strength alcohol produces a
thin texture while higher alcohol by volume (abv) extracts makes
Culinary alcohol is mostly supplied at high strength or as extracts
– 50% abv. Extracts retain the flavour of alcohol in a concentrated
format and are more economical. Culinary versions of well-known
brands are available as 60% extracts to keep the amount of liquid
in a recipe to a minimum and ensure strong flavour delivery. Typical
alcohol dosage would be around 3%. In creams it’s as high
as 7%. High fat content gives a good delivery of flavour because
it carries it more easily, but the flavour would not be so intense,
While alcohol has always been widely used in desserts giving lines
such as ice cream a premium status, savoury has been neglected.
Soups, sauces, marinades, pâtés and dips retain flavour
well because there is limited heat processing. Food with a high
fat content delivers flavour best and, if heat processing is essential,
alcohol should be added at the last minute to avoid evaporation.
The less heat processing the product is subjected to, the greater
the flavour delivery.
Meyer says that 98% of its sales are in the retail sector but this
year is the start of a major focus on foodservice, and in particular
bridging the gap between alcohol and savoury dishes. He says the
business identified this void a year ago and now it has a full menu
Helped by consultancy Food under
Focus, headed by Jeff Hart and Malcolm Calthorpe,
Thomas Lowndes has put together a raft of concepts to get across
the message that using high profile alcoholic brands can add value,
a premium look and achieve a higher price than other dishes that
people are prepared to pay.
Calthorpe says they helped develop the marketing strategy that
would improve the company’s presence in the sector and, as
from 2005, Thomas Lowndes will be expanding into the foodservice
sector with a major new focus and drive. He says the people being
helped are Thomas Lowndes’ best customers where there was
a huge inconsistency in knowledge.
Calthorpe says it is more difficult to get alcohol into savoury
but the results are great. “Sauza tequila glaze can be put
on chicken, ribs, and barbecue food. Pâté is another
good one to do. The company can provide frozen sauces in easy to
use formats that provide a good presentation, with minimal skill
requirements but maximum added value on the plate. Malibu is great
with Thai food. Malibu coconut shrimp was an idea seen at the National
Restaurant Association show in Chicago.”
At its Horsham base, there are development kitchens where people
can be shown how to convey a premium image, and recipes are tried
and tested by home economist Sharon Riddick. “The challenge
is how to get the brand on the plate – and the accessories
to go with it,” says Meyer.
He says that in retail the company has the right to taste approve
products. “For example we don’t want Courvoisier in
a cake where you cannot taste the spirit,” he explains. “However,
in foodservice its manufacturer approved.”
Health issues, he adds, are not so important because these are
high, indulgent products and not everyday lines.
This year there’s more focus on Sauza, the second largest
tequila worldwide. Meyer says that both Sauza and Malibu capitalise
on the fashion for tequila and tex mex. Malibu is one of Allied
Domecq’s fastest growing brands pulling in 2.75 million UK
“Malibu attracts the under 25s, mainly female. You have to
think about the menu combination itself and who will be eating it.
Malibu is very versatile – fish and sweets, while Harveys
Bristol Cream is great with lumps of pork.”
Concepts it has helped produce for a ready meals supplier include
medallions of pork with a spicy Caribbean Malibu sauce, and chicken
goujons with a Sauza tequila sweet and tangy honey sauce.
The company’s target is full service restaurants, with a
menu that changes three times a year, that will increase volume.
“Products will be specifically targeted at a particular segment.
We wouldn’t target a family restaurant – but you will
get a band of restaurants that serve alcohol that could set up an
alcohol link, for example, TGI Friday’s,” says Meyer.
Sassy marketing is another way of pushing the brands forward. Using
brand imagery in a restaurant is great for cross promotions, says
“For example, buy a Courvoisier at the bar and you get money
off dessert,” he says. “Even price sensitive operations
can be persuaded by the Malibu flavour that gives a dish a premium
price point. I can’t think of any other ingredients that can
add such a large premium.”
Reproduced from FD
Text - Sheila Eggleston & Photography - Thomas Lowndes