The Grocer

Winning on Quality

Winning on Quality

After a period in which our industry has been dominated by the acceleration of Aldi and Lidl, we are coming to a time when more minds will turn to winning on quality.

​There are two main dynamics in food retail.  How good is our food and how much does it cost?  So, if you’re not only concerned with price, what can you do to ensure you are delivering the best food to shoppers?  Here’s four things.

​First, remember it’s not about what it is, it’s about what it’s for.  We care about the technical details of our food products, but for most consumers, the most important thing is how the product contributes to their meal occasions.  If we are a meat, fish or produce company, we have to understand the different kinds of meals, and especially main meals, to which our product can contribute.  I mean really understand it – how the consumer plans, shops, prepares, eats and even clears up.  There is an army of people thinking about this in the industry.

​Second, cast the net wide for inspiration.  We are blessed with great data (Kantar, scanning).  It helps us identify even the smallest gaps versus competitors.  But don’t think all the answers lie in it.  Look where other people aren’t looking.  Look at Wagamama, massively popular amongst the young.  Retail hasn’t yet got anywhere near their success in Japanese food.  Look at Costco’s fresh food.  Their far more generous portion sizing (meat, fish, prepared food such as Mexican).  It’s obvious these are selling well just by watching shoppers.  Look abroad, for instance at Mercadona.  They bring excitement to Chicken and Pork, reminding us that these are not, and should not, be thought of as commodity categories.  None of these examples are evident in the standard UK industry data.

​Third, don’t compromise on quality.  It is always tempting to take some cost savings in year.  Thin out the chocolate.  Take out one prawn.  Shave the portion size.  We might even find research to tell us there is “no statistical significance”.  But common sense tells us this is an illusion.  Less chocolate is bad.  End of.  Stick with what consumers have grown to love.  You might make savings in year but you will reap a bitter harvest in the future.

​Finally, present with panache.  The product alone is not enough.  It needs the packaging (Gu, Bigham’s, San Pellegrino).  It needs the display (M&S’s new food halls).  A big part of quality food is this context.  If the pack and display shows pride, shoppers expect the product to match.

​So it is either about what the shopper pays or it’s about the quality of food and meals they get.  To win on quality, understand the occasion intimately, look beyond the usual data, refuse to compromise quality, and display with panache.

​Jeremy Garlick is a Partner of Insight Traction, consulting with FMCG and Retail companies. He was formerly Head of Insight at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Premier Foods.

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