Capper & Co is aiming for a £1m increase in fresh food sales. Amy Lanning finds out how it plans to achieve it.

Driving fresh food sales has made its way to the top of many retail and wholesale agendas, and the latest company to declare a major commitment to the category is Spar wholesaler Capper & Co. And it has an ambitious target - to increase sales of fresh foods by £1m.

Capper & Co retail director Alun Williams says: “We’re looking at the whole quality of our fresh foods, what the market is looking for and what the market needs. Consumer research shows that fresh food shoppers spend 20% more than the convenience shopper, and increasing numbers of shoppers are using the multiples for top-up shopping - we need to intercept these shopping visits.

“One of the big things consumers talk about is fresh produce so we’ve decided to attack this first,” adds Williams. “It will be followed by food to go, fresh meat, chilled and, finally, fresh bread and cakes. Bread and cakes are being tackled last because we’ve already done some work on that, in particular to highlight the fact that they’re fresh. Since that work we’ve seen a growth of 5%, but there is more to do.” To tackle the fresh offer, Capper has appointed four ‘fresh food coaches’. Two of these coaches have been appointed internally, and two are external candidates with a background in the multiples. “The coaches’ main focus is to look at the whole supply chain, relationships with suppliers, and to make sure our produce suppliers know exactly what we want in terms of quality standards,” says Williams.

Capper’s 110 company-owned Waynes Foods stores are the focus for the initiative, but Williams says the results will impact right across the Capper-supplied Spar network, which comprises 360 independent and 36 Naafi stores. “The side benefit for our independents is that the same quality of produce will apply to them, and they’ll receive all the information on how to handle produce, promotions and marketing. Everything is geared towards going right across the business. The coaches are just for the company-owned stores, but all the work they do will move over to the independents.
“Fresh produce is not presented well across the independent sector, although that is generalising,” adds Williams. “I think this has a lot to do with the fact that loads of c-stores through the 80s and 90s deskilled their stores, and as a result fresh suffered, allowing the multiples to gain greater control. What we’re doing is re-skilling the sector. We need to educate staff in what products should look like, how they should smell, how the unit should look, and make them understand how important fresh is to the consumer.”

Capper has developed new quality-control inspection sheets for fresh produce, and these have been distributed to all its suppliers so that their quality control mirrors Capper’s. “This stops any produce coming into our stores that’s not up to our specification,” says Williams. All of the Waynes stores now have chilled refrigeration for fresh produce and each store also has a produce champion - a member of staff dedicated to overseeing the produce section. The coaches will be giving training in the care and presentation of produce, and over the next three months the Capper team is putting together a marketing programme. “When we’ve got the quality right, we want to shout about it,” says Williams.

To incentivise Waynes store managers to grow fresh food sales, Capper has launched Operation Fresh Start. The scheme, which kicked off this month and will run until July next year, will see managers score points for sales growth and management of waste. A mystery-shopping programme has been devised, and the appointed category champions - Allied Bakeries, Golden Vale, Müller and Cuisine de France - provide support to the store managers and undertake mystery-shopping visits. “We’ve got someone specific for each fresh food category, and are very grateful for their investment,” says Williams. “At the end of the visit, the mystery shopper will discuss the scores with the store manager and explain why they have been marked down in certain areas so they can get it right before the next mystery shopping visit.”

Operation Fresh Start culminates in a prize for the winner of each category, plus an overall first prize, and a prize for the store that has showed the highest level of improvement throughout the competition. Category winners and the highest improvement winner receive £500, while the overall winner will be awarded a £6,000 all-inclusive holiday to anywhere in the world.

The targets for waste are 5% for produce, 1.5% chilled, 2% bread and cakes, and 8% food to go, but each store is set individual sales targets. “We’re trying to be as fair as possible so sales targets are based on individual store performance,” says Williams. Williams adds that by making these fundamental improvements, he doesn’t see why stores can’t grow fresh sales by 50% or more. “We have seen double digit growth every year for the past five years,” he says. “Four years ago we set ourselves the challenge of growing fresh to 30% of store sales in 10 years. Then we were at 21%, now we’re at 24%, and I think we can gain a lot of ground very quickly over the next few years.

“We have a great commitment to fresh - it’s a journey we need to go on,” concludes Williams. “It’s a journey the whole c-store sector needs to go on but has been pretty slow in doing so.”

Red cabbage is rich in vitamin C, supplying almost twice as much as green cabbage. Similar in flavour to green cabbage, red cabbage has a deep ruby red to purple outer leaves, with white veins or streaks on the inside.

Look for solid, heavy heads of cabbage, with no more than three or four loose outer leaves. These outer leaves should be clean and flexible but not limp, and free of discoloured veins or worm damage, which may penetrate the interior of the head.
The stem should be closely trimmed and healthy looking, not dry or split. The inner and outer leaves should be tightly attached to the stem.
Cabbage keeps well and retains its vitamin C content as long as it is kept cold.


Longer life for Young’s seafood

A range of longer-life products from Young’s is offering convenience retailers a way to cash in on the buoyant market for chilled seafood, which is currently growing at 6% a year and now worth about £830m (TNS).
The range comprises a selection of popular and accessible seafood products, all with a shelf life of at least nine days, which has been achieved by a combination of packaging innovation and the use of natural preservatives such as brine.

Issues of distribution and wastage have previously made it prohibitively expensive for the convenience sector to stock a good selection of chilled seafood, claims Young’s. Yvonne Adam, business development controller for Young’s chilled, says: “To date, it has been very difficult for convenience and local retailers to make the most of the superb growth in the seafood market. We hope these attractive products will go a considerable way to solving this problem, helping this sector to offer consumers the chilled fish options they are demanding, regardless of where they shop.”

The Young’s range includes seafood sticks (rrp £1.19, 250g, shelflife 21 days); large prawns in brine (rrp £2.49, 240g tub, shelflife 22 days); Irish mussels in vinegar, vacuum packed and ready to eat (rrp £1.59, 250g, shelflife 75 days); Rollmop herrings - traditional herrings, vacuum packed and ready to eat (rrp £1.29 260g, shelflife 75 days); Scottish smoked salmon strips (rrp £1.99,150g, shelflife nine days); Smoked mackerel fillets (rrp £2.19, 160g, shelflife nine days);
and kipper fillets (rrp 89p, 200g, shelflife nine days).

Dairy News
The margarine market is declining as Britons move back to butter, according to new research from Mintel. Margarine and spreads lost out to butter last year with value share falling from 61% in 2002 to 57% in 2004 to £486m. And while the amount of butter eaten by Brits rose by 8% between 2002 and 2004, margarine and spreads consumption fell by 5%. The main boost for the butter market has come from spreadable butter, which in volume terms increased by some 29% between 2002 and 2004, and by 33% in value.

Cravendale has extended its range of fresh filtered milk with the launch of two flavoured milk products.
The Hint Of… products combine the taste of Cravendale milk with a subtle blend of natural flavour in
a choice of two varieties - wild strawberry and vanilla. Made with 100% natural ingredients, Cravendale Hint Of… is white in colour, just like ordinary milk, and will stay fresh in the fridge for up to seven days. A 1ltr carton has a rrp of £1.09. The Cravendale brand will also be back on TV in January next year as part of a £12m media spend on the brand over the next 12 months.

Danish blue cheese brand Rosenborg is to be relaunched to make the product and brand more contemporary. As part of its image update Rosenborg now has a revamped logo and packaging. The cheese now sits in its own tray with a transparent cover, and the labelling now gives consumers nutritional information. A new production process allows Rosenborg to produce smaller batch sizes, ensuring enhanced quality across the range, claims the company.

Yoplait Dairy Crest (YDC) is expanding its Frubes fromage frais tubes range with the introduction
of a second limited edition - Frubes Star Wars Episode III strawberry fromage frais. The new product replaces the first limited edition - ice-cream-style flavoured fromage frais - and ties in with the DVD release this month. There are 30 Star Wars characters to collect on the tubes, including Anakin, R2D2, Yoda, Padme, C-3PO and Chewbacca, as well as The Emperor, Count Dooku, Darth Vader and General Grevious. Frubes Star Wars Episode III is on shelf now, with a rrp of £1.95 per box of six 40g strawberry flavour tubes.

In line with consumer trends towards healthy eating, Galbani, maker of authentic quality Italian cheese and meats, has launched Santa Lucia Mascarpone Light, as a lighter alternative to traditional mascarpone. The product is available in a 250g tub with a rrp of £1.49.

Müller is adding two new variants to its range of Cadbury Mousse chilled desserts. Cadbury Mousse with mini chunks of Dairy Milk and Cadbury Mousse with Caramel are available in 100g pots, each with
a rrp of 54p.

Yeo Valley Organic has launched three new products - its first-ever set yogurt, a 200g pack of its fast-growing Greek-style natural yogurt, and a single-serve 150g pot of its fat-free natural recipe.


Low-carb chilled launch

The trend for low-carb, low-GI foods is making its mark on the chilled foods category, as the Xcarb brand launches its chilled range of ready meals, soup, pasta sauce and sausages. Initially listed with Nisa-Today’s, the new products range from cauliflower cheese mash, moussaka and pasta sauces such as napolitana sauce with fresh garlic and basil, bolognese and tomato & mascarpone, to a range of premium British pork sausages, including Cumberland and Lincolnshire. The ready meals have a rrp of £3.29; chilled soups £2.29; pasta sauces £2.29; and sausages £2.29 for a 400g pack.


Supplier: The Big Prawn Company

Background: The Norfolk-based company has been supplying a range of long-life, chilled brined seafood products for the past 10 years. Using the latest processing technology, the cold-water prawns, tiger prawns and crayfish tails go from frozen to brined within eight minutes, and the factory just near the North Norfolk coast in Melton Constable has the capacity to produce around 3,000 tonnes of brined product per annum.

Recent launches: Norwegian rope-grown mussels, seafood cocktail, seafood bites, and a new premium sub-brand featuring Chilean gamba hand-peeled pink prawns, and The Big Prawn cocktail sauce. Products retail between £1.09 and £3.69.

Distribution area: The company insists that no customer is too large or too small, and no location too difficult to deliver to. Londis and Budgens, and Spar wholesalers Blakemore, Appleby Westward, CJ Lang and Capper all list a range of The Big Prawn Company products.