Mike Haslin, Chief Executive Officer at TUCO, The University Caterers Organisation, discusses how to achieve value for money in these unpredictable times
Responding to the Needs of Customers and Offering Practical Solutions is the Key to Innovation
School catering is something of a balancing act. Business Managers are facing the challenge of controlling labour and food costs, while reducing wastage and offering an affordable product for students.
With one of their largest client groups being within education, Raynors were very aware of the importance of listening to the demands, and adapting their offering to help solve the problems business managers were facing.
The sandwich manufacturer launched their Bite! range in autumn 2015 as an entry point item, particularly aimed at schools and fussy eaters with their simple fillings and flavours and low price point.
In September 2017, Raynors relaunched the brand, replacing the original rectangular packaging with wedge packaging for easier display and storage.
But they knew they also had to find a solution for wastage – with tight budgets, schools couldn’t afford to waste products, but it could be difficult to predict demand.
Raynors took on the challenge and provided a solution for their customers, launching their Bite! frozen panini range in November 2017.
Currently available in BBQ Chicken, Cheese and Ham, Cheese and Tomato and Tuna Melt - the bar marked paninis are 26cm long and are individually flow wrapped in clear, perforated ovenable film in boxes of twelve.
The Paninis can be cooked from frozen or defrosted in a combi-oven or panini press – allowing school caterers to be able to cater to demand and reduce the level of waste, providing a cost-effective solution. Additionally, the frozen panini provides the perfect fall-back option if any staff or supplier absence issues occur.
It is this innovation that allows Raynors to prosper almost thirty years since its beginnings, and continue to expand its supply across London and the South East as well as internationally to suppliers in France and Northern Europe.
New Product Design is at the heart of Raynors and the manufacturer is continually analysing both its offering and market conditions to meet the demands of their clients and consumers. With food trends continually changing, no food supplier can afford to rest on old favourites such as Egg Mayo and Cheese and Ham – while these will always be UK favourites, consumers are constantly looking for the next thing.
Tanya Everest-Ring, Marketing Manager, says: “Our biggest consumer age group is 16-24 year olds, and this audience are the ones looking for new and interesting flavours and lunch options. We take NPD seriously, and research and innovation is at the heart of everything we do.”
And while the food industry grapples with the struggles of Brexit, Raynors has at least managed to find some positives.
Matthew Raynor, Managing Director, says: “With the weak pound, there’s no cost benefit to buying in ingredients from Europe, meaning we can offer many more British ingredients in our products. For example, all our Raynors ham is from down the road at Wicks Manor Farm.
“Additionally, we’re seeing an increase in European customers stocking our sandwiches, because it’s no longer expensive to supply British sandwiches – the birthplace of the sandwich!”
Brexit has also caused issues for recruitment in the food industry, with many production and factory jobs being filled by European immigrants. Following Brexit and an uncertain future, many are choosing to return to their home countries.
It is something that Raynors, like the rest of British industry, are not exempt from. However, Raynors has yet again applied their innovative nature to solve the problem, offering school hours friendly jobs to encourage parents to apply.
With 10.30am – 2.30pm shifts and school holidays off, the sandwich manufacturer is able to offer flexible working options to parents of young children who may not be able to consider childcare due to cost.
Tom Holland, Innovation and Technical Director, finishes: “We are always looking at ways to achieve the next thing to make our business as efficient as possible.
“Raynors welcomes ideas and there’s an element of playfulness to here – we aren’t afraid to push the envelope.”