Sales of pickled cabbage and Polish beer in the UK have soared in the past few years. As the European Union has expanded, so too has the UK population, added to which newly wealthy Russians are choosing Britain as a second home. While the influx of Eastern Europeans bring out the xenophobic worst in some of our citizens, it also represents a pretty sizeable market. Big brands such as Lloyds TSB, Virgin Mobile and Tesco, as well as luxury goods brands, have all smelt the money.
Home Office figures show that a total of 579,000 Eastern Europeans registered for work in the UK between 2004 and the end of February this year. That's equal to the combined population of Cardiff and Bradford. The majority, some 65 per cent, are Polish. The next largest groups are the Lithuanians and the Slovakians. With Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU earlier this year, the numbers are set to rise.
These figures are undoubtedly well below the real numbers. At Media Reach Advertising, the chief executive, Saad Saraf, has worked with clients, including the money transfer company Smart Money and the Department of Trade and Industry, to reach an Eastern European audience. "More than 1.4 million people have come in from Eastern European countries, predominantly from Poland and the Slovaks, and we anticipate a further 1.2 million in the next year," he says.
According to research from Lloyds TSB, sorting out their finances is the biggest worry for almost a quarter (21 per cent) of Polish immigrants. The bank has been targeting the new wave of immigrants with translated brochures and increasing numbers of Polish-speaking employees.
Other banks have also moved in on the Eastern European consumer. At HSBC, its Passport account, aimed at foreign nationals, has been successfully pitched at Poles. "The key thing for us was satisfying their need to accumulate some money and send it home," Chris Clarke, HSBC's head of brand strategy and marketing planning, says.
The money transfer companies, including Western Union, are also keen to target a migrant working population that sends much of its hard-earned cash back home. But the money isn't all going back. Western Union says that while many Poles do wire money back to Poland, 40 per cent do not.
That leaves a hefty chunk of UK spending power. Last summer, the Centre for Economics and Business Research calculated that Polish migrant workers earn, on average, £20,000 a year, leaving a disposable income of between £6,000 and £7,000.
Plenty of advertisers are interested in chasing this consumer. With so many Eastern Europeans working as builders, these include DIY stores. Then there are the mobile phone companies wanting a share of all those calls home, travel companies and supermarkets, stocking Eastern European produce.
Mediaedge:cia MediaLab is producing a report on the Polish consumer in the UK. The research identifies three broad types of UK Poles - "trippers" (seasonal workers), "misers" (who want to accumulate money to take home) and "blenders" (who want to invest in the UK and consume goods).
David Fletcher, the head of MEC MediaLab, says: "We started with a hypothesis that the Polish community is neither literally or culturally bilingual, so there would be more reason to spend in the specialist media." But, given the changing nature of the Polish community in the UK, the hypothesis has not been entirely borne out.
There is, however, useful coverage through the number of new media targeting the Eastern European audience in the UK (see box). As well as a mini boom in publications in the past five years, radio stations such as RadioHeyNow have gained significant reach and websites have flourished.
Saraf insists a real understanding of the community and specialist communications channels is key for advertisers. Media Reach Advertising recently planned a campaign for Smart Money, which used specialist media, as well as targeting Eastern Europeans arriving by bus and at popular churches.
While the UK witnesses its Eastern European phenomenon, there's been a similar story playing out in Ireland. Around 5 per cent of the Irish workforce is now thought to be Polish.
In Dublin, Independent Newspapers' Evening Herald has launched a weekly supplement called the Polski Herald, which has boosted circulation and brought in new advertisers. "It seemed an obvious thing to do given the market was there," Tom Galvin, the Polski Herald editor, says. "So why none of the media in the UK have done likewise is something of a mystery."
But none of the established media owners in the UK have yet launched into the market. The Guardian has published a dedicated edition of G2 in Polish, but the TNT Group's foray into the market with Fusion, a magazine aimed at a range of Eastern European nationalities, closed its printed operation after a handful of issues.
Perhaps this year's influx from Bulgaria and Romania will see numbers reaching a critical mass, bringing high-profile Western publishing houses into the business of catering for a new Eastern European citizen.
KEY MEDIA TARGETING COMMUNITIES
This free, monthly magazine and website is one of the key media for the UK's Czech and Slovak communities, with a circulation of 15,000. Now three years old, around 70 per cent of its readership are young, university-educated professionals.
Launched in 2003 as a weekly news magazine and website. It currently has a circulation of 50,000, with the majority in London. The Polish Express competes with a small number of weekly news titles, including Cooltura and the five-year-old Polish Times (Goniec Polski).
Pulse UK is a free weekly newspaper, with a circulation of 18,000. Alongside its upmarket sister title, New Style, it targets the estimated 300,000 Russian speakers in the UK, including Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians. Its rival is London Info, a paid-for weekly.
THE POLISH DAILY
Dziennik Polski is the only daily Polish language newspaper in the UK and Western Europe. It has been circulating in the UK since 1940. The tabloid is distributed through WH Smith and John Menzies, with a circulation of 30,000.
Set up in 2002, the website aimed at the UK's Polish community now has 70,000 registered users. The Hungarian community's equivalent website is Londonimagyarok.com, while the most popular website for Czechs and Slovaks is Pohyby.co.uk.