By CSD Staff
Just as foodservice and food offerings in the convenience channel have changed with time, the concept of fresh is now naturally positioned at the forefront of the customer experience. Consumers’ demand has grown for better-for-you foods, but the definition of healthy has evolved to include fresh options, clean and transparent labels, all-natural and even high protein offerings. CSD spoke with fresh food expert Jennifer Vespole, director of foodservice at Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based QuickChek, which operates 148 locations in New Jersey and New York, to learn what the industry can expect next.
CSD: What are some of the fresh and healthy foods QuickChek offers customers?
Jennifer Vespole (JV): QuickChek has a robust made-to-order business that focuses on great tasting breakfast and lunch options. Our menu is highly customizable. We have breakfast options on English muffins, biscuits, tortillas, Kaiser rolls, Portuguese rolls, croissants and bowls. Our lunch offer spans from subs, wraps, sandwiches, burritos and bowls to fresh-made salads, soups and snacks. We offer the ability to customize an order based on the nutritional value of what you are creating. Every touchscreen shows the customer the final nutritional content of their order. We also offer an under 400-calorie section so customers can head there if they are looking for direction.
CSD: When it comes to ‘healthy foods’ what trends are you seeing heading into 2017? Have you noticed an increased interest in better for you foods?
JV: The big trend we are seeing is transparency. Customers want to know what they are eating from the ingredients to the nutritional content. Based on all the advertising Panera is doing, I think clean menus are the wave of the future.
CSD: It seems the definition of ‘healthy’ is evolving. What are your customers seeking when they look for ‘healthy’? How are you catering to that need?
JV: Currently, we have parts of our menu where we have focused on clean ingredients. It is a work in progress. Many of our items have short, simple ingredient lists and can be classified as all natural. Some examples include all-natural turkey and grilled chicken, white or wheat sub rolls, baguettes, Vermont Cheddar and Cilantro Pesto. Our soup offering has similar simple food ingredients. Where possible, we are eliminating artificial flavors and preservatives.
CSD: Simply conveying the idea of ‘fresh’ can be a major way to also convey healthy to customers. What are some ways QuickChek showcases a sense of ‘fresh’ to foodservice customers?
JV: We do a good job of presenting great looking products via our food photography, which is used in various formats from store menu boards to billboards to digital advertising. We are also continuously working on how we merchandise the store to be food first and really show off the freshness of our offer. All of the sandwiches, wraps and salads in our grab-and-go case are made in store daily and have a 24-hour shelf life. We merchandise these items on the side of our case with the highest foot traffic.
We make sure our labels take up the least amount of space as possible so the customer sees fresh, great-looking product and not packaging. We use similar tactics with our bakery products so we present more product than packaging. We have bakery tables placed in the front of the store where we display fresh, take-home bakery items. These freshness cues exist in high traffic areas of the store to emphasize what we call “fresh in your face.”