RIA 2017 winner: Fresh Produce Retailer of the Year – Symbol

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Fresh produce is pivotal to the new operating model at Budgens that launched in March 2016 and was a key factor in its return to growth. The new strategy helped turn around sales of fresh produce from a decline of 17% to growth of 3% – a positive swing of 20 percentage points.

The judges praised Budgens’ new Farm Fresh range launched in February that brought improved availability, sharper wholesale prices and better margins. Smaller cases and better shelf life also helped to reduce wastage, boosting annual profits by an average £10,000 per store.

The panel also liked the fact that Budgens retailers now have the freedom to buy up to 25% of their range independently, meaning they can devote more space to local produce. The group was also felt to have close links with growers and suppliers and a comprehensive staff training package – even for forecourt stores that are often new to trading in fresh produce.

A dedicated team of fresh food advisers supports all stores in managing fresh food, including help with store set-up, implementation and food hygiene. Also drawing praise from the judges was the fact that stores are encouraged to cross-merchandise fresh produce with items such as dressings, while recipe barkers provide meal inspiration and retailers are helped to create impactful displays of fresh produce at front-of-store.

“I liked their meal-for-tonight innovations, such as stir-fry mixes and salad bowls, as well as the labelling of British products,” said a judge. “The way they use fresh produce has really helped the group stand out from the competition.”