Ready for variety

McIntosh of Strathmore has been looking into how c-store retailers use its ready meals and if they are becoming c-store must-stocks. It put some key questions to chilled food award winner Scott Graham at McLeish in Inverurie

McIntosh of Strathmore Macaroni Cheese is a hit at McLeish in Inverurie, where shoppers often buy several ready-meals.

Q: Why is chilled so important for c-stores today?

A: The key thing is that consumer habits are changing and expectations are higher. They expect more choice and range availability and price is just as important.

People now talk about the ‘consumer mission’ – if their mission is ‘tonight’s dinner’ we’ve got to have the range availability and choice available to meet that requirement.

Chilled accounts for somewhere between 30% and 40% of our business, I’d say, and we’re always trying to increase the space dedicated to chilled. We are actually in the process of buying another two-metre multi-deck chiller as people are demanding more choice and variations in chilled.

Q: Which of our McIntosh Ready Meals would you define as a ‘c-store must stock’ and why?

A: I would probably say our top three must-stocks are the Scottish Stovies, Macaroni Cheese, and Haggis Neeps & Tatties. They are more suited to what our customers want and with more and more people living on their own these products are the perfect fit for the chilled category. We even find sometimes people will pop in for three or four ready-meals at a time for different people in the family.

Q: Do McIntosh Ready Meals help you extend your product offering in chilled?

A: McIntosh will bring Scottish elements to the category and offer traditional recipes to general c-stores as we try to extend the range and offer more choice.

You’re always looking for a point of difference but customers will respect the brand because they see it across larger multiples and also smaller stores just along the road.

“They know what it is and that they’re picking up something of good quality and they perhaps don’t need to travel all the way to a larger store to get that reassurance.”