As one of its leading sales categories, fresh produce has become a huge focus for discount retailer Lidl UK, according to Emma Byrne, the head of fresh produce buying at the company. Speaking with PBUK, she discusses how Lidl UK is pushing fruit and vegetable consumption and continually exploring new ways of engaging with its customers to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Byrne describes as “phenomenal” the growth of Lidl UK’s fresh produce category since the discount retailer set up shop.
“Fresh produce as a category is one of the strongest and fastest growing within our business and we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved so far,” she explains.
“Our customers rely on us to make fresh produce as accessible as possible and, rightfully, they expect fantastic quality and great prices, which is precisely what we deliver.”
For Lidl UK it’s all about widening the public’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables, with price being at the forefront of making it easier for consumers to buy more.
“Quite simply we’re providing our products at great prices,” she states.
“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that fruit and veg is accessible to all. We always seek to provide the best quality available, whilst endeavouring to offer our customers an exciting and interesting range at incredible prices.”
In constantly striving to be at the forefront of fresh produce, Byrne says Lidl UK is continuing to adapt and evolve its fresh produce range to satisfy the demands of shoppers.
The discounter continually adds new products and more seasonal items that allow its customers the opportunity to try new fruits and vegetables or buy produce to which they may not be accustomed.
Just last week Lidl UK re-introduced to its offer the Buttonhole Kale – a new variety of kale (curly cabbage) developed by Tozer Seeds.
“This is an item that was new to the market last year, which we’re bringing back due to popular demand,” Byrne reveals.
(Photo: Jim Prevor presents Emma Byrne with PBUK’s International Marketing Award for Promotions Inspiring Children to Eat Fresh Produce Marketing produce to kids)
This summer Lidl UK is also expanding its award-winning Oaklands fun-size range of child-friendly fresh fruit and vegetable portions sold in bright packaging featuring fun characters with playful names.
“We have been delighted with the response to our innovative approach to the challenges faced by both the industry and British households of encouraging children to eat more fruit and veg, and, as a result, we would like to continue giving our customers the opportunity to try new items that they might not have previously considered,” Byrne says.
Following a trial last year certain items will be re-introduced to the Oaklands range on a permanent or seasonal basis. And with the British growing season in full swing for many items, Lidl UK intends to trial several UK-sourced salad lines.
Those include ‘Radfishes’ which Byrne explains are trimmed radishes with a milder flavour that, funnily enough, look like little fish and are great for snacking.
Lidl’s Oaklands range last month won PBUK’s inaugural International Marketing Award for Promotions Inspiring Children to Eat Fresh Produce on account of the retailer’s significant effort to make fresh produce more appealing to children.
Byrne says the team was “absolutely thrilled” to receive the accolade.
“We were delighted to receive such a fantastic response from our customer base and especially our smallest customers, so we are proud to have had this recognised by the industry as well,” she notes.
Sales of the units in the category have increased by an impressive 100%, according to Byrne, much of which can be attributed to the new campaign.
The discounter also received “fantastic” feedback from its customers via social media channels, which were used as the main vehicle to drive awareness.
But the success of the campaign comes down to helping children to view fresh produce from a completely different perspective.
“There is such a lot of fun that can be had when you start to look at vegetables from a different perspective,” Byrne points out.
“We’d already incorporated fun characters into the artwork of our fun-size products, but we felt it was necessary to take it a step further and look at the product names. The creative juices really had to get flowing here so it was a lot of fun.
“I think ‘Romanesaurus Rex’ [for Romanesco broccoli] is still my favourite! And ‘Hippopotaspuds’ [a potato offering] was a stroke of genius – and as these won our online vote it seems our customers agree.”
In putting together its Oaklands range, Lidl UK worked closely with its suppliers to understand what products would be available and researched child-friendly portions and items with the right flavour and visual profiles. Then the names and packaging were adapted to suit the product offering.
With helping customers to live healthily representing a key focus for the business, Byrne says the team is delighted to have launched such a successful initiative that it hopes has played a role in helping households achieve this.
“If we can encourage children to try more foods and eat more healthily then this is a habit that will continue into adulthood,” she comments. “If our Unicorn Carrots can be part of that then I am delighted!”
Promoting healthy living
In addition to offering an ever-evolving range of fresh produce, Lidl UK is using a raft of in-store merchandising tools and even sports sponsorships as part of its commitment to helping consumers achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Byrne says the discounter is constantly exploring new ways to engage customers – whether it’s relocating the entire fresh produce category to the front of the store, promoting the range through its weekly ‘Pick of the Week’ offers or building interactive social media campaigns around its offering.
“Over the past two years we have dedicated an increased surface area to our fruit and vegetables,” she explains. “In 2016 we began the process of bringing all of fresh produce to the front of the store so it’s the first point of contact for customers.”
Lidl UK also became the first British supermarket to remove sweets and chocolate from all of its checkouts nationwide during 2014 in a bid to reduce unhealthy impulse buying and the ‘pester power’ that parents often face from children when shopping.
Moreover, Byrne says the discounter continuously promotes fresh fruit and vegetable consumption through its “sector-leading” ‘Pick of the Week’ offers, which feature in highly prominent positions in Lidl’s UK stores.
The business also recognises the important role of exercise in healthy living. In 2015 Lidl UK became the lead grassroots partner of the Football Association skills programme in England, Scotland and Wales, enabling children to be active and play more football.
In less than a year of this three-year partnership, Byrne claims Lidl UK’s sponsorship has seen girls’ participation in football more than double, with overall player engagement levels also at an all-time high.
Further to this, Lidl is striving to improve nutritional value of its products by committing to working with the wider industry to meet the UK government’s 20% sugar reduction targets by 2020, and continuing to work towards meeting the 2017 salt reduction targets.
With so many creative initiatives underway and forward thinking at the heart of its strategies, Byrne says Lidl UK is always open to new opportunities and business ideas.