How ASDA is Cooking Up a Storm to Bring Fresh Products to Market
Testing the waters for exciting new products can be a delicate process. However, by appointing an innovation chef, ASDA is helping bring delicious and daring new flavours to its customers.
ASDA was founded by butchers Peter and Fred Asquith, and by the 1920s spanned seven shops. Since then, the company was purchased by Walmart for £6.7 billion.Today, ASDA is one of the UK’s most well-known brands, ranked #7 in the Which? Best Supermarket Survey. ASDA’s parent company, Walmart, has revenues of $485,873 million and holds the #1 spot on the Fortune 500.
Innovation by Design
ASDA has long had a reputation for innovative practices, and has always tried to bring new technology into its business model. For example, a common struggle for supermarkets is the issue of having to import from other countries during off-season periods.
In order to survive the journey, produce must be picked before it is ripe, and then frozen ahead of export. This denies the produce the opportunity to ripen on the plant, and anyone who has tasted a summertime strawberry grown in Kent and compared it to a punnet imported from Spain or Morocco in the winter will know the difference.
To combat some of these issues, ASDA is employing innovative LED lights with its UK-based growers, which can extend the season for produce like fresh tomatoes. The lights act as a supplement to the dwindling sunshine, enabling delicious, fresh, and British tomatoes to be supplied to ASDA customers all year round. The technology also reduces the required heating and ventilation energy by up to 35%, keeping true to ASDA’s commitment to sustainability.
“I can say with confidence that by using this technology I could grow a tomato absolutely anywhere – underground, in a Tube carriage, on the Moon,” said Andy, a 20-year veteran of growing and supplying fresh tomatoes to ASDA.
However, fresh tomatoes are a rather easy sell for the supermarket chain. To innovate into more unique product lines, ASDA is thinking outside of the box once again.
Introducing the Innovation Chef
Many companies these days have innovation labs, designed to help bring new ideas to brands. However, ASDA is keeping the focus on flavour with an innovation chef.
The main job of the innovation chef is to keep an eye on the latest trends in the world of food, and try to come up with new ways to bring those flavours to ASDA customers. The chef’s team research these trends, run inspiration workshops, and ultimately try and convince purchasing managers to stock their recommendations.
“We have a top down strategic approach,” said Mark Richmond, ASDA’s Head Innovation Development Chef. “We get our inspiration from a variety of sources, but we do consult industry experts in the retail area and lots of trend organisations – groups such as Mintel. This fuels workshops, restaurant visits, and we do travel a lot to ensure authentic flavours.”
One trend which the innovation chef team is keen to bring to ASDA is using insects as a source of protein. Many sustainability experts have hailed insects as a way to counteract damage to the environment caused by farming herd animals for food. So, could we be seeing salted caramel crickets on ASDA shelves soon?
“We have done some work around insects and how we can use them in a way that is right for us,” said Richmond. “From a sustainability point of view, of course, it is good to have another source of protein, but is it a bit too far for our customer base at this time? Yes, it is, but it might be a different story 10 years down the line. The team has to investigate and see what avenues we might have to go down. We do speak to our suppliers and find out what it would take to use a particular ingredient and do research on far-out innovations with 5-10-year timelines before they are likely to come into the retail market.”
The team has seen recent successes, such as leveraging the hype around the rise in Mexican restaurants to bring more flavours from that part of the world to ASDA.
The idea of a team of innovation chefs experimenting with food trends and bringing them to market is an exciting one. However, it remains to be seen whether we’ll have bugs with our burritos anytime soon.
The final word goes to Asda’s Head Innovation Development Chef, Mark Richmond. “New Mexican cuisine was hard for our teams to understand, and so by taking everyone out on our research trip to Mexico, from product managers to the commercial and PR teams, we really drove innovation… We developed a good range in the right areas from cooking sauces, meat, marinades and ready meals. The trading teams helped back up the development work with key brands and that all helped bring the range to our customers.”