International introductions: meet Australia and New Zealand Flexeserve Zone distributor, Meris
“At Meris, we’ve completely embraced the Flexeserve vision of what a grab and go hot-holding solution should be.” – Michael Brick, General Manager of Meris Food Equipment, Flexeserve Zone distributor for Australia and New Zealand.
At Flexeserve®, we are incredibly proud of the distributors in our network, a network that continues to grow. The first in a series of ‘international introductions’, Warwick Wakefield, Customer Experience Director for Flexeserve, asks distributors about marketing hot grab and go in their particular markets and the opportunities they are embracing.
Warwick recently caught up with Michael Brick, General Manager of Meris Food Equipment, on the Flexeserve stand at EuroShop 2020 in Düsseldorf and asked him about marketing hot food-to-go ‘down under’.
Hello Michael, could you tell us a bit about Meris?
“As a company, we started out by selling a ventless deep fryer called the Perfect Fryer. From there, we diversified into complementary products suitable for cafés and cinemas, such as pizza ovens, waffle irons and potato ovens.
Once these products were cooked, customers of course then needed to display them – and that’s what brought our attention to hot food-to-go display units.”
What’s your view of Flexeserve and hot-holding with Flexeserve Zone?
“Whilst there are some retailers in Australia already selling hot food-to-go products, the food offer is sorely lacking.
“At Meris, we’ve completely embraced the Flexeserve vision of what a hot-holding solution should be. That’s why we have our own Foodservice Innovation Centre and development chef. We promote Flexeserve Zone as a means of adding value, by improving quality, and increasing the range of hot food you can offer.”
What’s the world of hot grab and go like in Australia?
“Most hot food-to-go retailers in Australia utilise the traditional bain-marie style of hot-holding, which is notorious for degrading freshness and quality. In Australia, the staple hot food-to-go is meat pie! However, traditional hot-holding technology means that the pies continue to cook, spoiling the product.
“Flexeserve Zone will revolutionise the way Australia eats, but it has to start with educating the customer. We want to help our customers create destinations for food offers where, at the moment, they only offer sandwiches and heat-to-eat out.”
Where is the market going?
“A recent survey of consumers in service stations found that many didn’t want to engage with the staff. Instead, they wanted to just grab and go and, of course, this means that grab and go products genuinely represent additional sales within this market.
“We have retail chains built around food-to-go here, but there’s no Pret A Manger in Australia! Our supermarkets sell rotisserie and BBQ chickens, and the service station market is also incredibly important.
“We’re certainly seeing the younger generation spending more on food out of the home during the lunchtime trade. This is particularly apparent in the capital cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and where we have large gatherings of people, such as in hospitals and universities.
“However, hot grab and go is really in its infancy here. We have a lunchtime market in Australia looking for something to fill it – but, right now, it doesn’t know what!”
How is Flexeserve Zone well-suited to the Australian market?
“I see Flexeserve Zone providing the ideal ready-to-go ‘impulse sale’ for customers who wouldn’t normally make a purchase. And this is particularly relevant to fuel customers and the service station market. Flexeserve Zone will also become the backbone of new, emerging fast-self-serve food offers in a variety of different businesses and formats.
“Australia has a massive landmass but, with only 25 million people, they’re well spread! The high level of product reliability that Flexeserve Zone offers, together with its plug‘n’play maintenance, makes aftersales support straightforward and easy to fulfil – even in this market.”
How do you promote hot food-to-go and the Flexeserve Solution?
“At Meris, we seek to emulate the experience offered by the UK Flexeserve team. We have our own showroom, test kitchen and innovation space. Once our customers are on-board, they can come and sample different foods as part of our menu development service and we can advise them on the right packaging and cook method.
“Advising on the consumer’s journey is important too. We demonstrate that by getting the point-of-sale right, through positioning hot food-to-go next to the cold cabinet in a grab and go store, which broadens consumers’ horizons.
“This all-encompassing service – the Flexeserve Solution – is what sets Flexeserve Zone apart from the rest of the market and it’s fundamental to the way we sell hot food-to-go technology in Australia.”
How does Flexeserve support you?
“For us, distributor support is key – the Australian market is a long way behind the UK, and we want to help it catch up quick! Being able to tap into the experience and knowledge of the UK Flexeserve team is invaluable.
“They’re experts in everything from packaging, food development and hold temperatures, to merchandising display, routes to market and successful selling. Sharing their experience with distributors, like ourselves, helps us accelerate the rate of market growth.
“For example, last summer we organised something we called a ‘hot food-to-go safari’. It was a tour of the UK to visit some of the leading food-to-go operations, such as Pret a Manger, Greggs, M&S Foodhall and, of course, the Flexeserve facility and head office in Hinckley. We invited our key customers to accompany us and it was incredibly beneficial for everyone that attended.”
What does the future hold for Meris and Flexeserve Zone?
“With us now being fully on-board with Flexeserve Zone in Australia, our next market is New Zealand. There we’ll need our dealers and salespeople to be more self-sufficient. That’s why we’re talking to the Flexeserve team about them developing a range of distributor resources. This will include a ‘sales manual’ to provide a unique knowledge base around hot-holding and hot food-to-go.
“In the meantime, we’re currently rolling out units here in one of the top two supermarket chains. This could play a pivotal role in educating the Australian market on the possibilities of hot food-to-go.”