I have on many occasions spoken about the need for suppliers to not only listen but to react to the changing habits of customers, the benefit of which has been demonstrated recently with one category in particular - fresh and chilled.

In my five years of retailing, my own store has gone from two metres of chilled to more than 10, and this in part is due to the big shift towards consumers buying more fresh produce and, better still, more of it being purchased locally from the convenience sector.

I think this is in part due to tighter budgets, with consumers buying just for that day or the next few days, but also perhaps because the range in the c-sector has improved. More likely it is a bit of both, but perhaps many of you, like me, have recognised this shift and are simply stocking more chilled and fresh product.

I was recently visited by a rep from a well-known chilled food van sales business, and after many years of having their head in the sand, she said: “I’m here to listen to what your customers want and how we can cater for it and improve our service to you.” After I scratched my cheek we had a very productive meeting and, with the input of other retailers plus extensive market research, we have now started to see a better range, more products on the van, better value and pricemarking, which is just as important in chilled as any other category.

At a recent retailer focus group, when asked what’s doing well and what we need to do better, all 10 or so retailers sat around the table replied ‘chilled and fresh’!

Just as the mults such as M&S have opened in motorway services with at least 80% chilled, and supermarkets have devoted more square footage to fresh and chilled, we need to keep pushing ourselves and our suppliers to really capture this great opportunity.

Add a helping of some great local produce to the mix, and you have just given yourself another great USP. So talk to your suppliers, go to local food shows and buy more chillers - then all you need to do is shout about it.