Chips and other potato products are vital to foodservice operators. Tan Parsons talks to McCain’s Jo Holborn about what wholesalers need to know to help their customers
BW: How have you been working to help wholesalers over the past year?
JH: We work right across the foodservice sector – pubs and bars are key for us, but we also work with contract caterers, education, healthcare and casual dining. We have products and ranges that meet the needs of each of these types of operators. We work with a wide range of wholesalers in the marketplace and we are consistently interacting with them, providing different things in terms of ad campaigns and promotions across our ranges.
What is included in your range?
Our range is made up of consistently high-quality potato products, helping the foodservice operators to satisfy their customers’ satisfaction, giving them a reason to return to the business.
We launched our jacket potatoes last year. They are microwaveable but give a baked flavour. You know how long it takes to bake a jacket potato in the oven. But, in a kitchen where there’s no predictable demand, using this product means cooks can prepare baked potatoes for customers at short notice. The response has been really good.
How often to you speak to your customers?
A crucial element is our sales team. Partnership is vital and is one of our real strengths in the marketplace, both with wholesalers and end users. We understand customers because we have day-to-day contact with them.
What is the greatest challenge you face?
The same as many of our customers face – the out-of-home marketplace is growing and people are competing for a share of that growth. Competition is heating up and there is an opportunity for those getting it right to stand out. We provide solutions for pubs looking to improve their resources, for instance, or restaurants needing to differentiate their offer. We are helping operators build their reputation by creating talking points on their menu, delighting their customers and enabling them to be more efficient in the kitchen.
So how important are chips on a menu and what makes a good chip?
Chips are hugely important. Look at it like this – chips cover up to a third of the plate. When we have focus groups, people can consistently recall where they’ve had great chips. With a good chip, you are looking for it to be hot and fresh, and then looking at the total meal experience.
What trends and opportunities are you seeing emerging?
The need for operators to stand out and differentiate themselves. We’ve listened very closely to our customers and we know that operators have three key challenges: getting things right for their customers by meeting expectations, getting things right on their menu by providing access to a wide selection of great products that help them to stand out from the crowd, and helping them in the kitchen with quality ingredients that enable them to work more efficiently.
How do you help them with these things?
We are relaunching our range on the back of these three areas. Our Original Choice range includes chips, roast potatoes, hash browns and pizza, and this is all about ease and convenience. It’s about knowing that whatever the day throws at them, they have a range to keep their customers coming back. We’re also focusing on making menus memorable, which is where our Menu Signatures range comes into its own. This includes skin-on fries, sweet potato fries and gastro chips. Our Chef Solutions range is all about natural, quality ingredients. It’s to free up time and resources for chefs to create food they feel proud of.
What major challenges have you overcome in the past year?
We have worked more closely than ever with our wholesale partners in the past year. This year, we are looking to increase engagement through our field sales team and telephone sales team. It’s about growing the marketplace and we know that choice is an integral part of that. We know consistently good chips have helped one of our large casual dining customers successfully grow business because it’s been able to replicate standards across sites.
What advice would you give to wholesalers looking to grow sales?
Make sure the ordering experience is straightforward. Understand how technology can be used for online ordering and to provide information and ideas online.
Understanding customers is an area we can help with, with quality products that meet their customers’ needs.
I’d like to see an increased focus on partnership to understand the needs of the marketplace. We have the three ranges but we are also relaunching our foodservice business at the same time.
Foodservice operators with a great reputation are the ones that are successful and grow, and our new range can help them with that.