Did you know that the average household fridge is opened 42 times a week versus a kitchen cupboard, which is opened 22 times a week? Interesting stuff, which goes a long way in explaining the growth of the chilled foods category which, according to Nielsen Scantrack data, is worth £21.6bn and is growing by 3%.

Richard Tyler, customer marketing controller at Kerry Foods, comments: "Over the past four years chilled and fresh foods have contributed an extra £2bn to sales in the convenience sector, growing by 45% (IGD data). The combined chilled foods category is the second biggest category in forecourts; this includes sandwiches (up 6%), chilled foods (up 5.3%) and milk (up 2.1%).

"Research highlights that sandwiches are the number one chilled foods sector within forecourts, with food-to-go being the number one mission in forecourts (Him). However, there is an opportunity for forecourt retailers to develop other missions. Research shows that one in five forecourt shoppers are on a top-up mission and with chilled foods being the number one category bought on this mission, retailers can expand on this by selling milk, spreads, cheese, cooked meats and meal solutions."

Kerry Foods’ chilled lines include Cheestrings, the number one cheese snacking brand (Nielsen). Tyler says the brand’s best-selling individual 20g portions are ideal for food-to-go shoppers. Then there’s Taste Inc, the company’s new microwaveable snacking range which includes a quarter pounder, meatball sub and chicken & chorizo baguette. And Mattessons Fridge Raiders, made with 100% seasoned chicken breast, which has recently become the largest meat snacking brand in the UK (Nielsen). Tyler says: "As an emerging category, retailers need to communicate the benefits of meat snacking products to consumers, compared to traditional crisps and snacks."

The white stuff

Nielsen data shows that retail value sales of milk were down 1% in the 52 weeks ending March 16, 2013, to £2.89bn, with the main reason being the fall in the retail selling price (pence per litre) of standard fresh milk.

And although, according to Him’s Convenience Tracking Programme, milk is the number one top-up mission product in convenience, a staggering four out of five shoppers do not buy their milk from convenience outlets. Muller Wiseman’s sales and marketing director, Sandy Wilkie, says it’s therefore important to ensure that offers and deals are targeted at these people. "The potential for growth here is huge, and offers should be scattered around the shop, not just at the point of sale, to maximise awareness."

Wilkie adds that consumers remain loyal to Müller Wiseman’s Black and White fresh milk range and, in particular, the company’s regional labels.

There are six regional labels currently in the portfolio: Grampian, Milk from Scotland, West Country, Cornish, Milk from Wales and more recently milk from our Northern Dairy.

Meanwhile, Arla Foods believes that by stocking its Cravendale milk, forecourt retailers can maximise availability and limit wastage as Cravendale uses a ceramic filtration system, which removes more of the bacteria that turns milk sour. This means it stays fresher for longer seven days once opened and 21 days unopened, which is over twice as long as standard fresh milk.

Sophie Macaulay, brand manager at Cravendale, says consumer research has found that the top-up shop (which invariably includes milk) is falling to dad, rather than mum. "There’s an opportunity for forecourt stores to take advantage of their primarily male target shopper by maximising link saves with other products that men are likely to be drawn to during the top-up shop."

Flavoured milks continue to outperform the total soft drinks market in both value and volume. "Currently growing in value at 10.9% (IRI), flavoured milk provides a real opportunity for forecourt retailers to increase their profits," says Helen Cridge, trade marketing manager at Friesland Campina

"Nearly seven million shoppers have bought flavoured milk while on the go in the past 52 weeks. And Yazoo is out-performing the total flavoured on-the-go milk market, growing at 24.4% in value and 29% in volume (Kantar). With penetration at 14.1% for on-the-go versus 34.5% for total market (Kantar), there is still headroom to grow the flavoured milk category further," she says.

Yoplait’s Yop 500g also performs well in forecourt stores, primarily because it’s a yogurt drink rather than a milkshake.

The brand only recently made the move from a 330g bottle to 500g, yet maintained its rrp of £1. Improvements were also made to the packaging and recipe, with colourings removed and carbohydrates reduced. It comes in raspberry and strawberry flavour varieties, in cases of six.Pot shots

The chilled yogurts and desserts (CYD) category is worth £2.3bn a year, making it an important one. It is in growth across all trade sectors at 2.4% MAT but within convenience this growth is significantly higher at 7.5% (Nielsen Scantrack data). Quentin Tchakhotine, category management executive at Danone, says: "Within smaller store formats such as convenience stores and forecourts, some segments perform particularly well as they meet the specific shopper needs often found in these channels.

"Strong over-trades are seen for breakfast products and big pots, which cater well for the morning while products in the luxury and desserts segments also over-trade by offering a perfect treat for the evening meal occasion."

Tchakhotine says breakfast is the newest segment within the category: "Although still small, it’s growing very fast.

"Nearly a quarter (24%) of people have breakfast on the go at least once a week, so there is a treat opportunity for forecourts to tap into this."

He believes the key to maximising CYD sales in forecourts is to provide a consistent range of core lines which the shopper can depend on getting from your store. "Single pot products are vital for forecourts. And, as many shoppers will often look to consume the product on the go, it can be of great help to provide spoons in store."

He adds that larger stores, which not only cater for impulse but also provide top-up shopping, should not neglect multipack products as these make up a large proportion of the total category.

"It is also a good idea to offer flavour variation, especially within the same segment.

"You may, for example, stock Activia single pot strawberry. Müller Light sits in the same segment so it would make sense to offer Müller Light toffee instead of duplicating the strawberry flavour."

Müller Light has recently been the subject of a packaging redesign which includes larger images to illustrate the flavours. And three "blissful desserts" have been added to the range: mischievous milk chocolate, frivolous fudge and wickedly white chocolate.

Meanwhile, Müller Corner received a boost from the arrival of Müller de Luxe Corner in varieties including Marc de Champagne. A £5m ad campaign supports these new lines until November, featuring pop-superstar Nicole Scherzinger. Müller’s indulgent theme continues with the launch of Cadbury Pots of Joy made from real melted chocolate. And Müller Rice has been relaunched with redesigned packaging, 20% more fruit and limited editions. A £2.2m TV ad supports Muller Rice from this month.

Retailer view

Jos Richardson and Son, Longs Corner Service Station, Howden, East Yorkshire, was winner of the Best Display of Chilled Food in the Forecourt Trader Awards 2012. Managing director, Joseph Richardson, says:
"We have 12m of chiller cabinets situated in front of the main entrance, with an end display facing the door with produce ranging from milk, meats, ready meals and yogurts, to fresh sandwiches, fruit, veg and salads.
"We stock a wide range of fruit and veg, which has recently been extended for the summer season with more salad products. Our best sellers are bananas and snack packs of grapes (150g) followed by 2kg bags of potatoes.
"The fresh category can be more of a challenge than others because of the short life-cycle of the products. We get daily deliveries which are on-shelf within 20 minutes of arrival. 
"Our supervisors are responsible for managing the fresh category including ordering, stock rotation, wastage and increasing sales. Items coming up to their sell-by dates are placed on ’reduced to clear’ promotions. 
"We find that by giving supervisors autonomy to manage this category they develop a keen sense of what customers want and are empowered to try new things.
"The main thing is to have a clear understanding of what your customers’ needs are. Are they looking for snacking items like bananas/apples or veg/salads to accompany meal solutions? And, think about seasonal trends, so in the summer extend your range of salads and soft fruits but in the winter look for more traditional veg like potatoes, carrots and onions. 
"It is imperative that stock is well managed and quality is maintained, it should look fresh and appetising at all times. Start small and if it is successful build up the range, ask your customers what they like and try new things."