Insight is key

With the British population spending an amazing £34.5bn eating out last year, or £47.57 a month for every man, woman and child in the country, the foodservice sector represents a huge but highly complex opportunity for suppliers and wholesalers.

Not surprisingly, as a global player Nestlé is deeply involved in the sector and invests a great deal in working with its partners and understanding the changing needs of both its customers and end consumers.

Andrew Bailey, route to market and field sales controller, out of home sales, explains that Nestlé Foodservices has an insight team at its Croydon head office analysing trends and feeding into the NPD process. Feedback is also supplied by the sales team working closely with the wholesalers in the market.

There is a constant process of “innovation and renovation” going on with products, he says, as they adapt to the rapidly changing tastes of consumers, while ensuring they are providing the right solution for wholesalers and operators.

He says: “The market is very diverse with potentially 380,000 sales points. We need to understand what they want, but we also have to consider the whole chain, the wholesaler, the operators, their chefs and their customers. When we introduce a new product it will only succeed if it works for all those links in the chain. That’s a lot of ticks in a lot of boxes.”

As an illustration of how complex the market can be, Katy Hilditch, beverages category and crm lead, gives the example of the different types of coffee that will be required by a single hotel. It will need one type for banqueting, perhaps another to serve from the bar to customers, single serve sachets will be required for guests rooms and a fourth option will be needed for staff coffee breaks. Nestlé, as the leading coffee supplier, will look to service all those needs.

For Susan Gregory, category lead out of home, some of her brands, such as Herta hotdogs, are instantly recognisable to end consumers, but others, used as meal constituents in the kitchen, will mean nothing to the person on the street but will be well known to chefs.

Maggi and Chef are Nestlé Foodservices’ two back of house brands and are the focus of a lot of the innovation keeping pace with consumers’ changing tastes and the needs of chefs. “Chefs are a key part of foodservice and we have our own development chefs who talk to them about their requirements,” says Gregory.

Two key trends cited by Bailey, “health and convenience”, have driven many of the developments. For instance, Maggi, a mid range brand for uses such as staff canteens, has introduced its A Natural Choice range, and many of its products are low fat, reduced salt and sugar and contain no artificial flavours. Gregory says the reduced salt is a reaction to people cutting down their salt intake, but also chefs are looking for reduced salt so they can season dishes to their taste.

She says chefs in this sector are looking for products that save time in the kitchen, because they cannot afford to produce everything from scratch, but they also want to replicate the taste of freshly prepared foods. For instance the Maggi A Natural Choice Bouillon is a paste which will produce 50 litres from a 1kg pack. It has less than 0.7g of sea salt per 100mls, is made with sunflower oil and is gluten free.

Chef is an up-market range of jus and stocks for chefs working in premises such as restaurants and has the tag line “Not for amateurs”. Again they can be prepared in moments but have a provenance that is well recognised by UK chefs.

Nestlé Foodservices keeps a high profile with chefs through a number of activities such as its sponsorship of the Toque d’Or competition for young chefs. “This helps us to engage with young chefs and is a visible commitment to the industry,” comments Bailey.

Front of house brands in Gregory’s portfolio are Herta hotdogs, which is an established brand in the leisure industry, and the newer range of Tollhouse Cookies.

For all these brands Nestlé operates a range of strategies targeting all links in the chain in order to promote sales. At the wholesale level its sales team works with wholesalers to create ‘push through’ for the products. Pull through is created with telesales teams by introducing them to the products and incentivising them.

This is backed up by promotional recipe sheets and information for chefs sent out by direct mail and though wholesalers and PLOFs.

In the coffee category, the demand for café-style coffee has helped to drive the market with the Nescafé Speciality range experiencing a 40% growth in sales during the first quarter of 2005. In a bid to maintain this growth, Nestlé FoodServices is hosting in-store sampling events over the next two months. Point of sale material and sampling will be supported by a direct mail campaign targeting mobile and event caterers.

One of the attractions of the range is that specialist equipment is not required to produce a good quality cappuccino. Katy Hilditch says: “Advising customers on how best to extend their current coffee offering, without needing to purchase a separate machine, is simple. The Nescafé Speciality range can offer impressive profit margins of more than £1 per cup. Once they’ve realised the difference this can make to their bottom line there is very little to stop them from making it a regular offering.”

Cappuccino, Latte and Mocha varieties are each available in two formats – a 500g compact tin or sachets. The tin is designed for caterers dealing with a higher volume, while customers such as smaller establishments which may only serve a couple of cups of speciality coffee each day, or the workplace environment where demand for individual serves is high, will find the sachets provide accurate portion control and avoid wastage.

Other recent activities promoting Nescafé Original and Nescafé Gold Blend to caterers through the cash and carry and delivered wholesale channels have included the chance to win a Mini Cooper on special promotional tins and another offering a chance to win a diamond.

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