The Top 10 Elements of a Successful Fresh Food Program

You cannot read retail publications, attend events like the NACS Show or FARE, or shop at any of the bigger grocery, drug and c-store chains without recognizing that fresh food is among the hottest trends in retailing.  As fresh food retailing comes of age there is considerable information for merchants to understand and consider when entering this market segment.

What exactly does a company interested in getting serious about this hot area of merchandising need to recognize before making the jump into fresh food services?
To answer that question, FreshOne has compiled “The Top 10 Success Factors of a Profitable Fresh Food Program”:

1.  Food Safety:  Never compromise food safety requirements and standards.  FDA and USDA certifications are a minimum in the foodservice industry. SQF, BRC and/or GFSI are quickly becoming the standard.  A thorough tracking of all ingredients and final products, HACCP planning & implementation, GMP’s, SSOP’s, and SOP’s for all verification steps is necessary as well as the ability to quickly identify the sources and origins of all ingredients in order to initiate a product recall swiftly if needed. Your food production facility should have guidelines/zones to optimize handling and cross-contamination protection, and be subjected to regular external quality audits.

2.  Custom Menu: Develop a unique signature item (or items) that you can be known for, will distinguish you from your competitor across the street.  Include the expertise of a chef familiar with retail food services including shelf-life and merchandising.

Your fresh food provider should keep you informed on the latest consumer behaviors and trends.  Limitless variety, complexity and custom possibilities should be readily available.  As your fresh program grows and succeeds it should be expandable beyond basic sandwiches, salads, parfaits & fruit.

3.  Marketing and Promotion: Significant marketing support enables your fresh program to avoid the struggle to reach profitability. Your fresh food provider should be able to arm you with a marketing arsenal that could include custom pump-toppers, window clings, POS danglers, road signage, inserts, loyalty incentives and bounce-back coupon strategies. A food stylist and photographer should also be available for custom branded artwork and signage.
Be sure you have access to expertise in these and the many other marketing and promotional methods used to build awareness and acceptance of your fresh offering.  We cannot stress this point enough, without a serious focus on this category your program will struggle.  If your food is good and you can get it into your customers’ mouths, they’ll be back for more – and they’ll share their discovery with others.

4.  Consolidated, Affordable, Frequent DSD:  Affordable and reliable direct-store-delivery to all of your locations is a must.  Fresh food deliveries should be made twice per week at a minimum to ensure freshness.  Without frequent and system-wide DSD, your fresh food program will become less consistent and your customers will not know what to expect when shopping more than one of your locations.  Consistency encourages customer loyalty.

Combine DSD services to get minimal delivery truck intrusion on your lot. Many programs are delivered as often as daily.  It is important to work with your fresh food partner on a cost-benefit analysis of the different delivery frequencies to determine what’s right for you now and later down the road.

5.  Training & Execution:  Without your whole team’s buy-in and commitment, your exciting fresh food items will not make it into your consumers’ hands and the associated profits will not land in your company’s bank account.

Your store managers and personnel need clear, simple to understand instructions to make your fresh food offering truly successful.  Guidance on how to place orders, request credits, properly face the items as well as appropriate handling, sampling and rotating are just some of the critical training modules needed.  Accountability and processes for in-store and outside store cleanliness are also critical ingredients for a successful fresh food program.

6.  Smart, Easy and Automated Ordering:  Your ordering system should be online, mobile, easy for your managers to use and automated when necessary.  The system should include a Suggested Order, thoroughly optimized to minimize both spoilage and OOS (Out of Stocks), while maximizing both sales and profitability.

Your store managers need to be in control of their orders; therefore, they need the ability to change the suggested order’s details or simply agree with the suggestion.  The ordering system’s ability to receive automated sales data by SKU and by location can be extremely helpful in optimizing your program’s short and long-term profitability.

7.  Valuable Data:  When running an in-house food service program it becomes quite difficult to correctly track labor allocation and ingredient costs by item.  You need access to all of your important metrics and real-time analytics including information that tracks each individual SKU’s sales history by store, day-part and profitability via an easy to use Business Intelligence Tool.  Understandable data drives good decisions at all levels of the organization.

8.  Fresh and Consistent:  Your food products not only need to be truly “fresh,” they also need to be consistent.  Making fresh grab-&-go products in-house is difficult and rarely yields product consistency across all of your stores without significant investment in facilities and process.  This inconsistency can hurt your brand, your cost tracking, your loyalty and ultimately your profitability more than if you began with no  “fresh” food.

9.  Packaging and Private Label Expertise:  Your brand is arguably your most valuable asset.  Why not extend it to your new fresh food program via private labeled products?  This builds loyalty, familiarity, a local-feel and consistency in your message.

Consumers today expect more from your fresh food program than old-fashioned gas-flushed containers and machine-wrapped packaging that hides the product.  Options such as euro-style bags, hand-wrapped cellophane, unique recyclable boxes, and distinctive easy-to-transport cups are just some of the interesting and eye-catching options available for today’s leading food service programs.

Look for companies who are actively collaborating with packaging companies on solutions that extend the shelf life of sandwiches, salads, wraps, HMRs and parfaits while presenting a FRESH image to customers.  It is also important to incorporate tamper-resistant safety seal technologies into your fresh packaging to ensure quality and safety.

10.  Procurement Efficiencies:  A significant percentage of your profitability is dependent on your product costs.  Consider the strength of your program provider’s ingredient and packaging buying power.

About FreshOne:
Since 2006 FreshOne has provided pre-packaged, custom-designed fresh food programs nationwide via direct store/warehouse delivery, to grocery, drug & convenience retailers including many of the largest and most respected brands.
FreshOne produces and delivers grab & go products for breakfast, lunch and dinner day-parts including custom sandwiches, wraps, burritos, salads, cut & whole fruit, parfaits, veggies, pastries, dairy, fresh and packaged bakery and home meal replacement options as well as many other specialty items.

FreshOne also provides innovative related services such as:
•   Custom menu design & promotion
•   Private labeling / packaging
•   Logistics & Distribution solutions
•   Intelligent ordering processes & software
•   Product offering optimization & consulting
•   Fresh category management

FreshOne – Making Fresh Convenient

Media contact:  Red Boswell, 214-454-5627 or;