Grab-and-Go, Go, Go

Swiss Farms ups the ante on its grab-and-go meals with Modern Palate

Convenience stores can’t a­fford to stand still when it comes to innovating their grab-and-go offer.

C-store prepared-foods sales increased 4% in 2016, according to Technomic, and with that growth comes higher consumer expectations around the variety, quality and flavor of retailers’ on-the-go fare.

Last fall, Broomall, Pa.-based drive-thru retailer Swiss Farms expanded the assortment of its Fresh Solutions line of takeaway meals with chef-created, better-for-you options. It even gave the line a new name: Modern Palate.

The scope of Swiss Farms’ new program ups the ante on grab-and-go meals, with items such as blackened chicken, grilled flat iron steak and pulled pork.

Each entree is packaged with two sides; the entire meal totals 600 calories or fewer.

Swiss Farms’ new director of fresh food/new-product development, Justin Vignola, discussed with Convenience Store Products the brand’s vision for on-the-go meal solutions and how the company plans to take its foodservice platform up a notch in the coming year.

Q: What’s on your radar this year for food development?

A: 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.

Q: What about your long-term foodservice plans?

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: What are you seeking out in new vendor partners?

A: Swiss Farms has an in-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.

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.