CHICAGO – There have been quite a bit of foodservice happenings at Swiss Farms lately. This year alone, we’ve written about how the drive-thru c-store chain has upped its coffee game, added customizability to kids’ school lunches and launched a whole new range of premium breakfast sandwiches.
Most recently, CSP DailyNews.com reported on the rollout of Swiss Farms’ new meal solutions, an expansion of its Fresh Solutions range. The latest items, dubbed Modern Palate, feature high-quality, chef-created preparations with a focus on both flavor and health; each entree totals 600 calories or fewer.
We reached out to Justin Vignola, Swiss Farms’ new director of fresh food/new product development, to get some additional insight into the inspiration behind Swiss Farms’ reinvigorated foodservice program. Here he talks about the foodservice opportunity at Swiss Farms today, and the direction he hopes to take its menu in the future ...
Q: What are your short-term goals for Swiss Farms’ foodservice program?
A: Currently, our program has plans to add more options for dinner on the go. Consumers are starved for time. As a result, we’ve created unique opportunities by transforming the traditional definition of a drive-thru. We are offering chef-prepared, restaurant-quality meals all within the confines of never having to even leave the car. Swiss Farms wants to be a part of that dinner decision-making process so time-crunched parents who dread cooking after work can lean on us and find comfort in our healthy contributions.
In addition, we are also always looking to partner with the best artisans and farmers we can on local levels, which will hopefully encourage the community to further support their purchasing power through healthy, transparent, good-tasting and good-for-you, readily available choices.
Q: What about your long-term goals?
A: Down the road, I would love it if something on our menu had a cult status reminiscent of our existing, best-selling Cranberry Chicken Salad where we could make an entire line with culinary riffs on that existing item.
Continuing to experiment with new foods that customers will highly regard, specifically seek out and rave about to neighbors, friends and family is especially important to us.
Q: Why is healthy/better-for-you important to Swiss Farms, and how are customers responding to the offerings?
A: Consumers' needs have become more sophisticated, healthy and lifestyle-conscious over the course of the past few years. We realized we had an obligation to be flexible and adapt to our customers, while at the same time respect many of the choices that have strongly reflected our brand since its start.
A specific group who has responded particularly positively to our new solutions-based way of doing things include young mothers. That particular customer appreciates the option of having a place to pick up healthy meals and don’t necessarily want to endure the disruptive process of getting kids in and out of the car.
So whether purchasing something like a naturally filtered coffee or heart-healthy egg-white breakfast sandwich en route to the office or Annie’s fruit snacks or a locally loved Tastykake treat for the kids, one can do it with more purchasing options than ever before.
Q: How does Swiss Farms execute its foodservice program—is cooking done on site, or to order? Do you have a central commissary, or are supplier partners a major component to the offering?
A: Swiss Farms has an-house R&D test kitchen in Milmont Park, PA which I helm. It’s where a lot of the prep is executed and brainstormed ideas translate into culinary realities.
For example, when someone from our hands-on team suggested we prepare our own store-made sausage for our breakfast sandwiches (a very uncommon endeavor in an industry where shelf-life and profit margins and food cost surpass taste, health factors and quality), I ground, mixed, seasoned and sautéed for weeks. In the end, I am quite proud of the result and the fact the idea was suggested, supported and came to fruition.
I hope all that hard work and time resonates with our customers because we truly care.