The forecourt channel is a very important one for Ginsters and this is illustrated by the brand’s prominence in forecourt stores.
"When Ginsters launched in 1977, the brand was built in the impulse channel. It was and still is an ’on the move’ brand," says Andy Valentine, head of brand marketing at the company.
"Forecourts are still a really important channel for us; we have our highest brand share in them," he adds.
Much of Ginsters’ success is down to the fact that its range is forever being refreshed with new lines and limited editions. "Products do fall out of favour," explains Valentine. "In forecourts, spicy flavours are selling incredibly well. The chicken balti pasty was our best-selling special-edition pasty last year so it’s back. Its sales reached 70% higher than any other special-edition SKU.
"We believe it has been so successful because it has taken the ’traditional’ pasty format and embraced the contemporary taste palate of the nation, while retaining a sense of home-grown quality." Valentine believes special editions of pastries and sandwiches are an efficient way for retailers to add choice and interest to their range.
Of course, there is much talk about healthier foods across the industry but Valentine believes people say they want healthy products but they actually represent a very small proportion of food-to-go sales. "We offer special-edition healthy sandwiches where we rotate the flavours every two months. Health is not a key driver in pastries though."
However, he does point to the new Cornish Bara, which uses bread dough instead of pastry and, as a result, has 90% less saturated fat than a pastry version. The fillings (flame grilled chicken, hog roast, spicy meatball and new all day breakfast) are fully sealed in the bread dough and are microwaved for 90 seconds before eating. The products have only been available since March but have already generated sales of £1m in the impulse channel. This has taken Ginsters’ share of branded sandwich sales in impulse outlets from 21% to 27.7% (Nielsen data).
Valentine says the Baras are selling particularly well in forecourts. They have been available in price-marked packs to drive trial. "We wanted to demonstrate good value and, at the same time, offer the retailer a decent margin. Recommended retail price is £1.99 but the Baras were available price-marked at £1.49 and £1.79. We are now testing price-marking at £1.99."
Although consumers are concerned about fuel prices, Valentine says that doesn’t mean retailers have to sell all their products in price-marked packs. "Instead it’s about getting a good mix and giving consumers reassurance that they can get good value on a forecourt."
With fresh food there are always worries over wastage. "It’s an ongoing balance between availability and waste and if your wastage is below 2% then you are missing out on sales," says Valentine. "We offer daily van sales so retailers can get the balance right. We look at their stock and come up with suggested orders based on the last two weeks’ sales and forward projections. We manage the section for retailers, driving the most sales out of the space we have in stores."
Typically Ginsters pastry products have a week’s shelf life while sandwiches have two to three days. A leading wholesaler recently announced that it was launching sandwiches with a two-week shelf life but Valentine sees that as a massive step backwards: "That’s going against all the consumer trends," he says. "Consumers are looking for good quality, fresh sandwiches."
Ginsters does price-mark its sandwiches too. Valentine says the company encourages retailers to offer sandwiches across its three tiers: entry level, standard and premium. "We don’t believe in price-marking every product in the range but it’s important to have some price-marking." The company also goes for short-term promotional activity. "One of the most successful promotions we have run is an ’extra free’ on sausage rolls where we saw a 60% increase in sales so promotions don’t need to be deep cut to work."
The company is also working on its hot food offer. "We can offer retailers everything from a big extensive serve-over to a Cornish Bara microwave, depending on the site. Investment then ranges from £200 to £10,000."
Valentine reports that its ’Have me hot’ activity is working well and is driving sales. "Consumers pick a product from the chiller then it’s handed to staff to be heated in an accelerator oven for 90 seconds," he explains.
Richard Tyler, customer marketing controller at Kerry Foods, says his company carried out a food-to-go study last year which showed total food-to-go sales increased by 60% through focusing on four key factors: availability; value for money; right range; and ease of shop. From this, Tyler advises that:
Sandwiches, pastries, meat snacks and cheese snacks should all be sited together in one location, adjacent to soft drinks and ambient snacks.
Stock brands such as Wall’s and Mattessons throughout the chiller cabinet to meet customer demand and maximise profits.
It is essential to stock the right range to meet your shopper missions. Do they visit your store to grab a breakfast or lunchtime snack, as a top-up shop, or are they looking for inspiration for their evening meal?
Use impactful point-of-sale material such as branded shelf risers, bus stops and wobblers.
Ensure your ranging and space reflects your customers’ needs with products available at key times.
As for products, Tyler says more and more people are choosing to eat a meat snack with their lunchtime sandwich.
"Meat snacking within impulse is currently worth £18m and is growing at 6% year-on-year. According to Nielsen data, Mattessons is driving the category showing double-digit growth."
He says Mattessons Fridge Raiders are selling well. "We’ve driven awareness through a marketing campaign and created consumer engagement with a nationwide sampling campaign. We’ve also created limited-edition flavours for c-store consumers such as piri piri."
Fresh Express, Palmer and Harvey’s (P&H’s) new food-to-go range, was unveiled at Pro-retail 2011 earlier this year. The range, which delivered a 35% increase in food-to-go sales when piloted in a Mace store in Durham, has been created in partnership with food specialist Market Fresh. The hot and cold food-to-go and drinks offer includes category best sellers such as sausage rolls and steak slices as well as luxury items including organic brown bloomers and filled doughnuts.
P&H says the thing that differentiates it from other food-to-go offers, is that the 39-strong range has been created using the highest quality, fresh ingredients. Davidstow Mature Cheddar is used in the cheese slice, Belgium chocolate in the brownie and the sausage rolls are made from pork belly to give better flavour.
The range has been rigorously consumer taste tested, and P&H says that every time the Fresh Express products came out top against other products. The doughnuts have even beaten Krispy Kreme in independent taste tests. And the range’s handmade Cornish pasty won best Cornish pasty 2010 at the British Pie Awards.
Dave Marshall, director of Market Fresh, says: "I am a sausage roll connoisseur and unashamed about it. I love sausage rolls and that’s how I know we make the best.
"We worked on Market Fresh for more than a year and studied all the research on the subject. We found out what products sold best and put them in the range. We taste tested everything over and over again. If it didn’t win against the competition it was back to the kitchen to try again.
"Market Fresh has made an investment in the quality of this range, using better cuts, higher meat content and the best ingredients. We have made the range affordable to retailers by lowering our profit margins."
Marshall says the range also has a longer shelf life than its competitors, with the savouries staying fresh for six hours and the breakfast muffins for four hours. With no need to cook or assemble, labour costs are slashed. Plus the products are competitively priced, an all butter croissant is 99p, a large sausage roll is 79p and a triple chocolate muffin is priced at £1.25.
P&H says it will deliver Fresh Express on its combined temperature vans six days a week alongside regular shop orders of ambient, chilled, fresh and frozen.
Finally, Country Choice’s new Hudson’s hot dog offer gives retailers the chance to expand their food-to-go range with a concept that requires minimal counter space and offers a profit margin in excess of 40%. The 8½" premium quality Hudson’s hot dogs which are steam cooked for a better taste contain 87% pork. They come with pre-sliced, fully-baked demi-baguettes, which simply need to be defrosted. The Hudson’s concept comes complete with a ’heat and hold’ steamer which is said to maintain product quality throughout the day and maximises product visibility despite having a very small footprint. Simply plug it into a standard 13amp socket and you are ready to go.
Retailers who sign up for Hudsons receive free on-site training from a Country Choice technician; free technical support for product queries; a free temperature probe for safe product handling; a free wicker merchandising basket for the baguettes; and a free sauce sachet merchandising unit for countertop display.
Country Choice says the Hudson’s concept promises minimal wastage for maximum profits while next-day delivery (up to six days a week depending on location) keeps stock holding to a minimum. All products are available on one delivery and there is a low minimum delivery value of just £60.
To coincide with the release of the new Conan the Barbarian film, Rollover Hot Dogs is running a promotion whereby anyone who buys a Rollover Hot Dog from now until mid-September gets the chance to win a trip to Hollywood. Consumers enter a code printed on the promotional hot dog trays at the website www.first4movies.com/conan.To participate in the promotion, Rollover retailers have to order three cases of hot dogs and one case of hot dog trays and ask for the promotional theme kit which includes a header board, posters and wobblers.
West Country-based Oggy Oggy is giving forecourt retailers the chance to sell an extensive range of high-quality freshly-baked Cornish pasties, sausage rolls and turnovers. A Texaco site in Plymouth is already on board and selling around 20 to 25 products a day. Product is supplied unbaked and frozen; retailers require a freezer, oven and display cabinet. Oggy Oggy can assist retailers who require equipment. Profit margins on products vary depending on retail price but typically range from 40-66%.
Mattessons has expanded its meat snacking range with the launch of Twisted Tails in hog roast and barbecue varieties. Targeted at teens and young men, Mattessons Twisted Tails are described as "the ideal snack to satisfy meaty cravings". Made from seasoned pork, they come in 50g bags, rrp £1.
The latest lines from Pork Farms are Branston Pickle Bites (pork bites flavoured with Branston Pickle) and English Mustard Bites (pork bites flavoured with English mustard), both with a recommended retail price of £1.29. There is also a new snack-sized bag of cocktail sausages.
Subway and the Fraser Group, Oxfordshire
There are over 120 Subway outlets open or in development in convenience stores and on forecourt sites in the UK and Ireland. The chain still has ambitious expansion plans across the country, and is actively seeking businesses in which to lease space to trained franchisees. Partnering with the chain is said to provide excellent dual-branding opportunities, high rental returns and increased market share.
Oxfordshire-based Fraser Group operates six Spar and Budgens forecourt sites. The group first partnered with the Subway chain in 2010 when it opened Subway stores at two of its sites and has a further two in the pipeline.
Robert Fraser, director at The Fraser Group, comments: "We have trialled many different types of food offering in our stores, but nothing has really taken off. What’s great about Subway is that it’s a tried-and-tested formula with clear benefits for both businesses and ultimately it has attracted many new customers to our store, as well as a significant amount of repeat trade. "Our usual shopper profile tends to be people in their 30-50s from the local area. Once we opened the Subway store inside the shop, we immediately welcomed more younger customers, as well as those from further afield.
"We like the way the Subway chain works the partnership approach is very effective and we work well as a team."
Shires Garage, Langport, Somerset
Any forecourt retailers who think they need to be on a busy A road to make food-to-go a profitable investment should visit Shires Garage, situated at the junction of two B roads on the edge of the small town of Langport in Somerset. Despite having limited transient business 80% of its customers are local the site, owned and operated by Carmela Ricciardi-Powers, has seen a steady increase in the uptake of food-to-go since it was introduced in partnership with Country Choice as part of a Mace refit in February 2008.
"At £1,000 per month it accounts for only about 3% of our monthly turnover but the margins of around 50% mean that it makes a significant contribution to our profitability," says Carmela. "We have a relatively small shop area of approximately 25sq m and so we are only able to give an area of about two linear metres to food-to-go. But despite this we have been able to introduce a good range of products from hot food to ’thaw and serve’ confectionery, all of which is merchandised using Country Choice’s Bake & Bite-branded equipment and packaging.
"Best sellers are the 8" sausage roll and the bacon & cheese turnover. By linking these products to coffee we also do a brisk trade in meal deals such as coffee and a pasty for £1.50 and coffee and a sweet pastry for £1.75. The whole offer is very simple to operate and manage, which is perfect for us because it means that it can be done by the cashier.
"We provide a useful service to the local community and it’s important for us to have something for everyone ranging from ’white van man’ to ’school run mum’.
Country Choice makes it very easy for us to vary our offering and satisfy demand by running regular promotions on best-selling lines.
"We are constantly looking to broaden our offering and the most recent example of this is the introduction of Country Choice’s Hudson’s Hot Dog concept which has helped us to extend our offer into the late afternoon and early evening."