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The farm shop and deli industry, in particular, is currently in the grip of some pretty powerful forces. Public Health England's 2018 published figures inform us that the average fibre intake in adults is 19g per day. The recommended lowest level is 30g per day. 26% of adults were classified as obese - an increase of 15% since 1993. But it's only when we start to look at the health of planet earth that things get really scary. Industrial level animal agriculture is responsible for destroying 14,400 acres of rainforest every single day, while it is also the leading source of carbon-dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane emissions. With the planet's population set to increase from 7.5 to 9.7 billion by 2050, it doesn't take much imagination to realise that things are getting pretty serious.
Fortunately, Issac Newton was bang on the money when he said "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction". That's lucky. And in this case that opposite is a veritable tidal wave of pro-action, up action, direct action and bottom line action in the world of healthy eating - for us and the planet. The world and his dog is going completely bonkers for a holistic answer to the health Armageddon that we are apparently careering towards like a hell-fired comet on a path to destruction.
It's often tempting to step back from what can appear at first glance to be hysteria. All too often, overreaction results in burst bubbles and burnt fingers. But when the trigger for reaction is based on total planet destruction, as opposed to an over-indulgence in rocket salad, it may be worth getting involved. The health and wellness industry is now worth $4.2 trillion globally. Mintel has stated that demand for meat-free food increased by a staggering 987% in 2017, while sales of such foods were estimated to hit £740 million.
Once again, this information overload with head-spinning figures can be overwhelming for the independent speciality food retailer. All too often there can be the feeling of clinging by fingertips onto the coat tails of a shelf-sweeping trend. Just swapping one line for another that's more in vogue isn't really taking on board and running with a powerful new movement. It's time to lead again, not follow.
Clearly, as with anything in life, if you have a genuine interest or passion for it, driving it forward on a commercial basis becomes a whole lot easier - and enjoyable. And while I'm not suggesting signing up at the nearest gym or start eating like an Olympic marathon runner, reading and researching the subject will open a whole new world of information and inspiration. However, as with all things online-based, this needs to be focused and filtered. The world of disinformation is far bigger than the small world of accurate, science-based research - especially in the fields of health and nutrition. The idea here is to empower and enthuse you - perhaps even taking steps to transform your own health and wellness. Let's face it, nothing sells better than a personal journey of self-discovery.
Once armed with the info, it's time to convert that new found knowledge into the right product line and experience for exponential sales. There's certainly no shortage of professionals who will be only too eager to share their knowledge with you and your customers. Maybe a local personality personal trainer for a weekend boot camp followed by a hearty healthy breakfast in the farm shop cafe. There's a plant-based restaurant close to where I live that has teamed up with a yoga teacher to offer Sunday morning yoga sessions with breakfast (served afterwards of course). This isn't just about selling more product, this is real community building on a level that the retail giants and ecommerce sites simply can't compete with.
Perhaps you can market your initiatives to your local health and running clubs. This is an enormous market that is always looking for a reason to spend their money with like-minded retailers that have their interests at heart. It's a win win. As a health and wellness convert myself, just writing this stuff excites and motivates me. I actually want a reason to head down to a local independent retailer and hand over my hard-earned cash in exchange for not just a product to consume, but one that satisfies my soul too. Now that's a priceless commodity. On that note, I'm going to be all ears at the live speaker stage at this years Farm Shop & Deli Show. It's all set to be a hot-bed for healthy mind, body and business. But before that, I'm heading straight for a spot of yoga and mashed avocado on sourdough toast.
Friday March 29 2019
Innovation: it's all the rage these days. From the likes of Elon Musk with his ground- breaking Tesla to 3D printers that actually regurgitate a finished dish from the raw ingredients, technology is marching at a frightening pace. Even the human side of innovation is set to break new ground with the imminent prospect of shop floor workers taking up board positions. At first glance, you could be mistaken for thinking that innovation is the exclusive playground of the rich kids - a long way from the make-ends-meet world of the independent speciality food retailer struggling to come up with a budget for staff welfare, let alone a drone delivery system. It's not surprising then that the idea of embracing innovation can be as daunting and confusing as its perceived accessibility. And even if there is a determination to embrace it - with so many directions run in - which way do you go?
Personally, I always think there's nothing like referring to a dictionary definition to get focused. It seems to strip things down and keeps it simple. According to Collins, "an innovation is a new thing or a new method of doing something". Brilliantly simple. It makes sense then that a few nifty side steps are always going to be preferable to trying to outrun the big boys in the same competition. In other words, step out of competing in the same race.
What new thing can be done that cannot be implemented by those e-commerce behemoths? It's time to play to strengths. There are two glaring differences between the e-commerce route and the retail outlet: personal interaction and sensory stimulation. Make no mistake, being able to engage in person, and the power of engaging with the senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste are a big deal. And given that we're talking here about the pleasure-giving side of the food and drink industry, that is one hell of a plus.
Continuing down the simple, logical path then, what new method of getting the customer to see, smell, taste and touch can be introduced, and furthermore, how can that be done through manipulating human interaction as oppose to leaving the customer to their own unpredictable devices? Luckily the independent retailer has three key elements at his or her disposal: the customer, the staff and the damn fine sexy product that reputation has been staked on. All of which can be supported and promoted by that very cheap, if not free digital tool box of social media and the mailing list.
According to a report in campaign.co.uk, Nathan Watts, Creative Director at retail and brand consultancy, Fitch, says retailers are starting to "gamify" their stores by "blurring the lines between retail and experience to make that a more fun experience". Furthermore, research conducted by Mindshare, stated that 83% of respondents to their 'Future of Retail' survey think stores are important because a customer can touch, feel and see products. Armed with this kind of information and referring back to our dictionary definition, innovation suddenly seems not only infinitely possible, but straightforward too.
The opportunities for seasonal tasting experiences or just simple in-store engagement offering products to the customer to touch, smell and taste are endless. The proprietor of my local fruit and veg store, more often than not delights in offering me a taste of his latest, new season line, always accompanied by a beaming smile of genuine flavour-fuelled excitement. It may be just a few almonds, olives or a couple of Medjool dates, but the impact is enormous. Why am I ever going to buy my fruit and veg anywhere else? Innovation really can be that simple.
Notching things up a level, a TV screen can project images or video footage of your far-flung coffee source - picking, processing and packaging in their spectacular mountain location. Site an open bag of beans on a table below the screen and customers will feel like they've been miraculously transported to the plantations themselves. These days, DIY videos as quicker and easier to put together than Ikea furniture. This is where email data capture can really deliver. Imagine a quick, punchy video of the asparagus harvest for example; close up shots of the new season produce being pulled straight from the ground and then received at the farm shop back door by excited staff. All this sent directly to your customers phone via an emailed newsletter.
Thankfully, this year's Farm Shop & Deli Show has left no stone unturned to bring you the brightest sparks in the business today to share their innovation secrets. Personally, I can't wait to welcome the indefatigable geniuses of innovation that are Steve and Dave Flynn AKA The Happy Pear to the live speaker stage. Roll on April!
Wednesday March 20 2019
The days when the only competition to your business was a token offering of local sausages tucked in amongst the result of a billion-pound animal agriculture industry in the supermarket meat section are now a distant, vague and fond memory - like recalling the days of being offered tea in china cups when meeting with your bank manager.
While the supermarkets themselves have rapidly caught on to the demand for artisan, locally produced products, the retail ripples have turned into crashing waves with the arrival of Amazon's 130,000 plus line of home delivered groceries. And let's not forget their same day delivery options and excellent customer service rating. Now if that doesn't shake the independent sector into some serious action, then I don't know what will. It really is a case of hit your A game - or be damned.
This is the kind of retail insight that can easily send you into a bit of a tailspin. Before you know it, the headless chicken scenario has set in and you find yourself unfocused and attempting too many things at the same time in a desperate, but unfocused bid to try in vain to keep up. It's time to stop, breath slowly, and focus - on the one most important thing: customer satisfaction.
Here's a very useful little bit of insight to help do just that: According to the January 2019 Customer Satisfaction Index published by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), companies whose customer satisfaction was at least one point higher than the sector average, earned average sales growth of 6.9% compared to 1.5% for those with lower than average satisfaction. This is exactly the kind of thing that can stop unproductive worrying about what the competition is doing and bring the focus directly on what can be done that will have, unquestionably, a positive impact on business: happy customers.
The ICS outlines a number of recommendations in its report in order to help organisations demonstrate an authentic customer ethos. Firstly, they recommend: "Publish the organisation's customer service strategy, objectives and results". Although this advice appears to be directed at the bigger corporates, it can be easily interpreted and adapted to the small independent retailer. Essentially, the advice here is 'have a strategy and write it down, and then you can gauge its effectiveness.” And it's precisely this kind of thinking that focuses the mind and galvanises action. The strategy could be anything from offering loyalty cards, to putting on a courtesy bus for a wine tasting event. The point is, it forces creative thinking and action.
Another salient point in this list is: ‘Select suppliers and partners that share and demonstrate a commitment to the organisation's customer ethos.’ Developing the examples above, this might involve persuading suppliers to offer some kind of incentive if the loyalty cards were linked to their products - such as supplying a free hamper for a Christmas draw of completed loyalty cards, or a wine supplier providing a guest speaker and product to conduct a particular tasting.
The point is, these are things that Amazon - with all its power, pricing, delivery possibilities and customer service rating cannot, as yet anyway, provide. Aiming for a well thought out and coherent customer satisfaction strategy gives you the focus to keep your head when all around may be losing theirs. It gives you the chance to identify what is unique about your business that can be embraced and nurtured to deliver genuine, measurable customer satisfaction. Nail this and you don't have to worry about Amazon, drone deliveries, or robots taking to the streets. You've got something that people want, and you're going to make damn sure they know, and enjoy it. And the really good news is: this year's live speaker stage at the Farm Shop and Deli Show is jam-packed with acclaimed industry experts to give you all the inspiration you need to take your business to the top.
Richard will be hosting the Farm Shop & Deli Show’s live events programme taking place at the NEC Birmingham, 8 – 10 April 2019.
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Wednesday March 06 2019