Competing to Win in the Grocery Industry

How running a successful fresh citrus juicing program can help you win

We’re going to share some secrets in this blog post. These secrets are based on being in the juicing business for more than 12 years. These learnings come from countless discussions with grocery store operators, produce professionals on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as veterans of the juicing industry.

Competing to win in the grocery industry means competing against on-line competitors, competing against local grocery competitors, competing against national grocery chains. Increasingly, it also means competing against convenience stores and the recent surge in food delivery options, who are expanding their product offerings to include more “fresh” and more “healthy” options.

Competing to win in the grocery industry has a lot of similarities to competing to win in professional sports. Developing a competitive strategy that addresses the ever-changing competitive landscape is important for your team’s success. Part of any strategy is making decisions and then executing on those strategies.

Have a game plan. Execute on that game plan. Adapt as necessary.

KEY DECISION 1: Should you have a fresh citrus juice program in your store?

Why grocery stores seriously consider implementing a fresh citrus juicing program:

  1. Consumers love fresh juice and demand for high quality juice and cold pressed juices has been growing
  2. Consumers are constantly looking for exciting experiences
  3. Consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical of nutritional/natural/health claims
  4. Perimeter sales drive traffic and profitability in the grocery segment
  5. The experience, aroma, and taste of freshly squeezed citrus juice is impossible to replicate. If a consumer wants fresh orange, tangerine, lemon, or lime juice, they either have to squeeze it themselves or buy it from a store preparing it fresh.

Click HERE to read more about perimeter sales and building trust with consumers.
Click HERE to read more about consumer trends and in-store experiences.
Click HERE to read more about why freshly squeezed orange juice tastes so good.

In speaking with many of our retail customers, we can draw some basic conclusions that:

  • Fresh juice programs can attract and retain profitable customers into the store
  • In-store frequency tends to go up with customers who start buying fresh juice
  • Fresh juice buyers usually fill larger grocery carts with higher value products
  • Fresh citrus juice programs should be profitable stand-alone programs with strong ROI
  • Fresh juice programs support a healthy, natural in-store brand image

CONCLUSION: Consumers love fresh products and are looking for exciting experiences. Juicing programs can really support fresh store perimeter strategies. While there are many factors you need to consider before investing in a juicing program, such as floor space, labor costs, investment and ROI calculations, if you’re looking to WOW your customers, support your brand, provide exciting in-store experiences and earn attractive returns then fresh citrus juicing may be a great program for you to consider.

KEY DECISION 2: If you’re going to implement a fresh juice program do you want it to be profitable, sustainable, and provide long-term gains?

Let’s get right to it: We’ve seen quite a few stores absolutely ruin their juicing business by:

  • Buying the wrong equipment
  • Using poor quality fruit
  • Having poorly trained staff
  • Losing control over supply and consistency
  • Presenting dirty equipment and surroundings

The amazing thing is, we’ve seen many more stores, especially our well-trained customers, be successful with juicing by following the exact opposite.

Here are the secrets to running a successful fresh, in-store, citrus juicing program. Successful customers run successful programs with conscious decisions to:

  • Invest in the right equipment for the job
  • Source quality fruit with the right specifications
  • Communicate their goals and train their staff
  • Manage supply and program consistency
  • Maintain clean equipment and attractive surroundings

If you’re going to compete in juicing, then compete to win in juicing.

The truly amazing thing about these secrets: they work for the grocery store business, they work for running a factory, and these principles can even help run a successful sports team.

CONCLUSION: If you’re going to compete at anything, then compete to win. This principle applies equally to any business, any sports team… and certainly to any grocery store. This requires investment in equipment and training. This requires purchasing and supply chain management. This also requires a certain degree of discipline, structure, and cleanliness.

RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL SPORTS TEAM

Sports, like business, is about percentages. It’s about fine tuning your operations to steadily increase your chances of success despite having competitors who want to eat your lunch. It’s about being brutally honest with yourself and your teammates to address performance issues and seek out areas of performance improvement. It’s about having a coach, and/or a coaching staff, that recognizes what needs to be done and can motivate the team to do it.

For all of us spectators watching on TV, we may only see the Grand Slam tennis match, the Olympic ski race, the NFL Super Bowl, or the MLB World Series. We may not see all that’s gone on in the background, throughout the season and in the off-season. Every time a fan turns on their TV or buys tickets to see a live event, they’re expecting (or at least hoping for) their team to win. There are multiple participants that help athletes consistently perform at their peak. The principles remain the same for football, baseball, the national ski team, or even professional golfers and tennis players.

This is similar in many ways to running a grocery store.

Customers go to your store to have a great experience and buy the stuff they need. They may never know about the supply chain issues, the hygiene procedures, the safety inspections, the recruiting, the training, and the daily stocking requirements. They just know they expect their favorite grocery team to perform the amazing task of providing a safe, clean shopping experience.

A consumer’s business, like a sports trophy, is there for the grocery store to win.

winner trophy on sky background

THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT

NFL Football: Can you imagine a football team with low-quality equipment? Helmets that crack? Shoelaces that snap? Cleats that break off? Communication equipment that gives out during an important game?

Golf: Can you imagine a pro golfer’s clubs snapping in the middle of a big swing? Their cart breaking down during a tournament?

Skiing, tennis and the list goes on: Racket strings breaking on the first serve and no extra rackets ready for the tournament? Having unwaxed and unsharpened skis or bindings that fail when put to the test?

IN JUICING: pick equipment that delivers on performance, reliability, hygiene, efficiency and delivering the best tasting product possible. Have vendors that can respond quickly when support is needed.

QUALITY FRUIT (INPUTS/INGREDIENTS)

Soccer: These athletes run up and down the field for 90 minutes, so they better be well-nourished and well-hydrated. Garbage in… garbage out. Good inputs for good outputs.

Tennis: Have you ever watched a 4+ hour tennis match in the hot sun? 

IN JUICING: Bad fruit in, bad juice out. You need the right quality and specification fruit for your juicing needs. This requires some training and expertise.

TRAINING

There’s not a single performance that doesn’t rely on hours of hard physical and mental training. The true champions and top performers usually have a near inhuman ability to train above and beyond any ‘normal’ levels of training. Competition requires training.

IN JUICING: Trained staff to operate and clean the equipment, plus trained purchasers for the right fruit and trained merchandisers and managers to ensure overall program success.

CONSISTENCY

Professional athletes, championship teams, and any top performer will tell you… victory depends on consistency. Consistent training, discipline, nutrition, and concentration will help lead to superior results. In order to be a champion, you need consistent results.

IN JUICING: consistently available juice is important for program success. Could you imagine closing down your deli or your butcher shop because your deli slicer is broken or people don’t know how to operate the scales? The right equipment and training supports a consistent program and keeps your customers coming back for more.

CLEANLINESS & STRUCTURE

Training facilities. Playing fields. Locker rooms. Medical facilities. Cafeterias. Equipment maintenance, uniforms, gear and storage rooms. Schedules and communications plans. Spectator arenas. These areas are all within a sports team’s control that simply have to be kept clean and well-organized. This is not a negotiable item for a championship team with an excited fan base to please.

IN JUICING: A clean juicer sells juice. A dirty one doesn’t. A clean store invites the shopper back again, while a dirty one doesn’t. A simple concept to communicate and address with your team.

CONCLUSION: Equipment, quality inputs, training, consistency, cleanliness. It works for professional sports teams and works for grocery stores.

THERE'S NO "I" IN "TEAM"

An old business colleague of mine used to always say, “There’s no “i” in “team”. Running a team and being on a team is about playing for the team. It’s about winning for the team. It’s about being there for the team. It’s about communicating, cooperating, and sacrificing the “I” for the sake of the team’s success.

While professional sports are filled with highly paid professionals, and some with big egos, I would argue business is not much different. In the end, we’re all individuals. Younger employees at the beginning of their careers as well as more seasoned senior executives are all individuals that are looking to add value and be valued.

"RUIN" VS. "RUN"

Now let’s have some fun. Let’s banish the “i” in “ruin”. If we can eliminate, or at least reduce the “i” in ruin, then we have a completely different word: “run”.

Stop “ruining” your juicing business, start “running” your juicing business. This is about implementing and expanding programs that succeed as opposed to killing programs that fail.

It would be fantastic if it were that easy, but we both know it’s not. So now we’re faced with some of the most challenging tasks any business must face. Finding out the “WHY”.

  • Why does my team buy the wrong equipment?
  • Why does my team get the wrong fruit?
  • Why is my staff poorly trained?
  • Why do I have inconsistent supply?
  • Why does my juicing operation look dirty?

Here are some quick observations we’ve made over the past decade when looking into why juicing programs fail:

  • Why does my team buy the wrong equipment?
    • Misaligned goals: “Silo thinking” and lacking communication between departments
    • Purchase price vs. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) perspective
    • Buying on price instead of investing in value
  • Why does my team get the wrong fruit?
    • Misaligned goals and poor communication between “Silos”
    • Lacking knowledge about ‘juice fruit’ vs. ‘shelf fruit’
    • Spot buying on price instead of program buying on quality
  • Why is my staff poorly trained?
    • High employee turnover
    • Lack of team discipline
    • Weak vendor support
  • Why do I have inconsistent performance?
    • Poor equipment and even worse technical support
    • Misaligned fruit purchasing
    • Management discipline and misaligned goals
  • Why does my juicing operation look dirty?
    • Misaligned goals and poor communication
    • Lack of training
    • Lacking discipline

The “Silo thinking”, the lacking communication, the misaligned goals, the lacking discipline… these are all symptoms of too much “I” and not enough “Team”. They may be from optimizing specific targets, while not optimizing overall performance. Some of these issues may come from generational communication issues (ie. Boomer v. Millennial). There is simply too much to cover in this blog, but there should be some thoughts to consider here when developing a ‘juicing business plan’ to fit within your overall business strategy.

Here’s a true story: A chain of customer’s stores were doing very well with their juicing programs except for a few locations. One store, in particular, was in a very nice urban setting with a high income demographic and it was, generally, a very high performing store.

I had never been to this store, so when I found myself in the area I decided to play ‘secret shopper’. I visited the store unannounced and wandered aimlessly for about 15 minutes. The store was impeccable. Deli, bakery, olive bar, salad bar, fresh cookies, hot take-home food, clean floor, nicely stacked produce, nice signage… the list goes on of everything they were doing right… until I got to the juicer.

Here’s how I would describe the juicer: It was extremely sad. It was actually disgusting. The bottles were nearly stocked out and many were tipped over. The floor around the juicer hadn’t been mopped for hours. The juicer hadn’t been cleaned all day. The peel bucket was overflowing. The hopper was nearly out of fruit… and yet, the apples were nicely stacked, the blueberries present and account for… You get the idea. This was a neglected juicer.

I quietly and politely found the store manager, introduced myself, handed him my business card and asked him for 10 minutes of his time. He graciously accepted and even committed to 15 minutes. I complimented him on his store and asked him to take a walk with me. Again, he graciously agreed to my request and strolled with me as I gave him 5-star compliments across multiple departments. All these compliments were genuine: the store was impeccable.

We stopped in front of the juicer and I asked him what he thought.

He was embarrassed. He was upset. He was honest.

He told me how much he heard the department manager complain about the juicing machine and how hard it was to take care of. He told me how embarrassed he was as other stores in his region were reporting weekly juice sales figures that were double his store’s numbers, even though his store was the bigger, busier, and (mostly) more successful store.

I asked him if he had another 15 minutes for me.

Unbelievably, he agreed, even though I feared I had long outstayed my welcome.

Within 15 minutes, we had restocked the bottles, filled the hopper with fresh oranges, and we gave the machine a quick wipe down. He asked the department’s assistant supervisor to grab a mop and clean up the area. A very quick team effort.

We took a step back and I asked him what he thought now.

His response: “I guess I’ll be walking past this juicer twice a day until we get it right.”

The numbers he knew from his neighboring stores were roughly in line with my own calculations and estimates. We went through some figures together, discussed some cleaning strategies and spoke about some merchandising ideas.

For those of you who have read PAYBACK IS SWEET, you’ll know that our calculations show that a 3’ x 3’ space, juicing about 8 boxes of oranges per day yields more than $100,000 in annual gross profit… and that’s on a product that consumers love to come it on a regular basis to get. We have customers that easily juice more than 8 boxes per day so the returns and payback are even more impressive.

For operations with 10 stores, that’s $1,000,000 in additional gross profit!

JUICING IS EXCITING!

8000-SB-ATS

Juicing is exciting. It’s an in-store experience. Coming up with new juice recipes for your staff to make in store or to share with your customers is fun and core to a grocery store’s success. Fresh juice, cold pressed juice, and natural juice is very popular and can be a unique product in your store. If you’re going to offer such products, then do it right.

WRAPPING IT UP

Every day we eat food that comes from production facilities. Every day we may take medicine that comes from pharmaceutical production facilities. Every day we may get in a car or airplane that is filled with technical features that consistently work. Every day consumers go into grocery stores to buy food to feed themselves and their families. It’s amazing that all of these products work the way they do.

In 2010, when I first met Joseph Pichler, the founder of Citrocasa and original designer of the equipment, he said to me, “Mr. Framson, there are so many reasons grocery stores should be juicing, that profitability is just a nice side story… and IF they’re going to juice, then they have to juice right and there’s only one option for them: that’s CITROCASA.”

That was 12 years ago. Back then, we had to make some big decisions to make. Do we get into the commercial citrus juicing business? Do we start promoting Citrocasa in North America? Do we take some big steps to change the way Americans drink and enjoy fresh citrus juices?

If you’re reading this blog, then you’ll guess the answers to those questions. We decided that if we’re going to get into juicing, then we’d have to select the best commercial citrus juicing equipment available. The 304 food grade stainless steel, the incredible design work, the commitment to innovation, continuous improvement, and quality have all proven their value as we grow our business. In addition to that, we decided to make sure we provide the best training, the best technical support, and the best after-market sales in the segment.

We’re competing to help our customers compete to win.

As you look for ways to run your grocery store, to grow your business, to compete for your customer’s business (the trophy), think about ways to impress your customer, support your brand message, and add profitable new products into your portfolio. Look for new and innovative ways to compete for your customer’s business and keep them coming back for more.

Conclusion: We’re in business to compete and win. We need to look for products that attract and retain customers and keep them coming back for more, while earning attractive margins. Regardless of what area of a grocery store you’re looking to invest in, it’s ultimately going to rely on: Equipment, Fruit (input/ingredients), Training, Consistency, and Cleanliness. These are critical success factors.

About Citrus America– Citrus America has been driving innovation and quality in the juicing segment for more than a decade in North America and the Caribbean. We’re the exclusive master distributor for Citrocasa and have driven many innovations and quality improvements in juicing equipment. In addition to equipment solutions, we provide tailored training and support strategies to help our customers earn Healthy Profits.

About Citrocasa – Citrocasa has been the pioneer in producing the most innovative and highest quality food grade stainless steel commercial citrus juicing equipment to the grocery, hotel and restaurant since 2005 across Europe. The Citrocasa 8000 Series was launched in 2005, with the 8000XB and the 8000SB. The 8000SB-ATS was launched in 2013. The Citrocasa Fantastic Series was launched in 2010 with the Fantastic M/AS. The Fantastic F/SB followed in 2011.

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