Cutting-edge industry research reveals that a fresh food program will increase the number of store visits per customer each month by 37 percent, and dollar amount spent per visit by 23 percent. With such mounting evidence supporting this blossoming trend across America’s retail food stores, it’s no wonder that seven in 10 retailers are now optimistic about food sales in the upcoming quarter, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.
Retail foodservice is welcoming a major shift toward fresh foods such as hot and cold sandwiches, salads and fresh-cut produce, and Dallas-based FreshOne, an innovative fresh food partner and nationwide provider of ready-to-eat fresh food programs, is poised to help lead the way. One crucial challenge ahead, says Matt Yost, vice president, sales and marketing at FreshOne, lies in the fact that offering a strong fresh foods program is just the beginning.
“I hate to make this sound simple, but freshness with on-trend flavors and ingredients will grab the attention of today’s consumers,” says Yost, who joined FreshOne this year with 25 years of experience in a variety of roles in CPG sales leadership and marketing services. “There was a recent industry publication written that talked about how consumers love sandwiches…and it’s true. But ham and cheese is boring. Sriracha chicken sandwiches, chipotle chicken wraps, Greek salads, etc., speak to the diverse cultures that we need to appeal to.”
As a result, Yost says, FreshOne is doing an “outstanding job of working with our chefs within our kitchens” to develop new items that can support a national or regional approach. Additionally, it is important to have seasonal items as Limited Time Only (LTOs) that embrace a flavor appeal based on the calendar. For example, FreshOne offers a Turkey Cranberry Apple wrap that is poised to become a customer favorite during the fall months. “Consumers love new products, so it’s important that we have a slew of new ideas within our R&D pipeline.”
When developing fresh meal concepts and programs, FreshOne focuses on four main areas:
- Understanding your current customer, brand and how it needs to be represented in this fresh space.
- Ideal product mix, pricing strategy and roll out timeline to drive sales and maximize margins.
- Optimal frequency of ordering and delivery/pickup.
- Defining successes for your business and ongoing accountabilities of the FreshOne support team and overall program.
“Existing and new items are still about freshness,” Yost says. “Unless we are completely confident (after testing) that a new item or LTO (Limited Time Only) will stick, we work with our retailer partners on limiting the distribution until we can monitor each new item’s success. If we have an item that appears to have slower movement than expected, we live by the “fail fast” mantra, and just move on. New items keep our menus fresh, and help support our ability to reduce waste for our retailers.”
So where does food safety fit into the equation? Yost points out that this issue is vital to customer and consumer trust. “For us, our cold chain is extremely critical,” he says. “Items are produced in our climate controlled kitchens, delivered on our climate controlled trucks and merchandised in a climate controlled cooler. Any variance from the process breaks the cold chain and can cause product quality issues. The technology equipped on our trucks provides us minute-by-minute monitoring of the temperature of our items. We strive to generate a repeatable process, both on the production or our items, and our direct store delivery model. Consistency drives comfort and confidence for our retailers, and therefore their customers.”
FreshOne has provided best-in-class foodservice expertise since its founding in 2006. Customers choose from sandwiches, salads, fresh cut and whole fruit, snack trays, bakery, dairy, sides, soups, breakfast bowls and sandwiches, entrees, deserts and other items based on specific requirements. FreshOne offers affordable nationwide direct-store-delivery or delivery of final product to CDC, warehouse or cross-dock that are pre-picked and ready for merchandising.
“Depending on the channel, we have several different business partners that we coordinate products with,” Yost explains. “Since FreshOne is both a product producer and distributor, we have several items that “ride along” on our trucks and get delivered with our core sandwich, salad, and wraps program. This consolidated approached helps retailers (convenience stores, in this example) streamline the number of vendors they deal with and reduce the number of deliveries they need to receive each day. Probably the biggest opportunity for our retailer partners to take advantage of is our ability to distribute their breakfast programs, croissants, burritos, donuts, muffins, etc. Again, this reduces the number of vendors and deliveries received each day.”
Innovations in technology play another key role in how FreshOne answers today’s marketplace needs. Yost points out that they have a terrific “Order Management System” approach. “By tracking our customers’ daily sales, we can understand movement by item, trends, important days of the week, etc.,” he says. “We use this information to enhance our marketing approach. For example, for customers that have a terrific Monday-Friday business, we’ll implement a "2 For” or “BOGO” strategy on Fridays to help deplete inventory going into the weekend. Then come Monday, we have a “fresh” order arriving, with limited product left over from the weekend. This approach helps eliminate waste, and supports a larger basket ring.”
In his current role, Yost is responsible for implementing FreshOne’s strategic vision, driving thought-leadership for current and new business partners, and implementing fresh solutions to appeal to the ever-changing consumer.
Prior to joining the FreshOne executive team, Yost worked in a variety of roles in CPG sales leadership and marketing services. He began his career in California with the Gallo Sales Company and was previously a strategic business leader with CROSSMARK, Catalina Marketing, and Dr Pepper/Seven Up. FreshOne utilizes Yost’s expertise and experience to further mature its service to the fresh food retailing industry. “As we continue to grow with the convenience, grocery and college and university channels, Matt will be an outstanding resource for our customer partners. His skills match well with our growth and results oriented culture,” says Don Janacek, president for FreshOne.
On the production front, Yost says that FreshOne continues to follow the most stringent standards to ensure they deliver results and provide a turnkey solutions approach for customers.
“When we discuss freshness with senior-level personnel at retailers today (all channels), they all have a very consistent theme – their need to reduce in-store labor costs, provide consistent and quality products to their customers, and make sure they stay in-stock,” he says. “QA testing and Department of Agriculture testing at store-level have increased the scrutiny of products produced in-store. Fresh cut fruit and vegetables and pre-packaged salads and sandwiches are becoming more difficult to handle at store level. Cost of labor, turnover, time constraints and proper labeling hampers freshness, consistency, and availability,” he says “Having a DSD model, like FreshOne, can take those production needs out of the store, and help assure that freshness, consistency and availability is returned to the shopper.”