“We fully understand the boredom, frustration and restlessness this protracted period of isolation has created amongst our customers,” says Yvonne Lee, DFI Retail Group – Commercial Director, North Asia Fresh & Food. “In bringing a whole range of new and familiar brands and exotic tastes from all over the world, we hope to brighten their everyday lives and ameliorate their nostalgia for the good old days.”
There is no doubt that people are cooking more at home in the last two years, and in tandem with this growing trend is the increasing emphasis on quality and freshness of food produce. In this respect, Wellcome is pulling out all the stops in maintaining its strict quality control. Zita Kwok, Wellcome Commercial Category Manager, points out that they have specialised tools to monitor food products in terms of size, color, and sugar content.
“Our rigorous quality control procedures ensure that customers are getting safe, healthy food that conforms with international standards; anything that fails to meet specifications are returned to suppliers,” Kwok stresses. “Take the chilled chicken we sell, for example, they must meet our stipulated requirements in terms of the feed, the number of breeding days, and the absence of any added hormones.”
To ensure customers enjoy fresh food that is transferred straight from the farm to the table, Wellcome maintains its own fleet of delivery trucks, including those equipped for cold storage. “Take vegetables, for instance, they are cut the previous day and transported across the border overnight, reaching our supermarket shelves within 24 hours,” she adds.
Customers can also look forward to a greater variety of products to light up their menu, adds Yvonne Lee. “Everybody is familiar with white cauliflower, but we’ve now introduced new species that come in bright yellow and purple colors as well – they not only look most appealing, but are just as nutritious!”
In the face of breakdown in the supply chain and bottlenecks in logistics, Wellcome has doubled up in its sourcing efforts, increasing their supply regions from 26 to more than 40 on a worldwide basis. “This diversification in our sourcing strategy provides an effective backup so that if any natural disaster or untoward event should occur at a certain place, we can promptly readjust our supplies by tapping into other regions,” Lee explains.
“While our customers watch the daily weather report to decide if they need an umbrella, we, at Wellcome, keep a close eye on world climate to check where extreme weather may impact the harvest of our suppliers, and hence the volume and quality of the food we’ve ordered,” she adds. “In this business, preparedness is the name of the game!”
Wellcome is on the constant lookout for new suppliers and new products. While the pandemic has hindered their hitherto active participation in food expos, they have been extra diligent with their online searches. Once they have found the right supplier and established all the procedures, they would enter into a contractual relationship to ensure that they meet the quality and quantity requirements.
Lee shares a marketing secret of theirs, and that is building on the relationship with trusted suppliers, they would be exploring other possibilities. For example, they have had a very successful experience with oranges from a Moroccan supplier, and currently they are working on extending their cooperation with blueberries.
Lee points out that for every product, they go through many trials before they come up with the right quality and the optimum supplier. Take the product of Meadows Holland cherry tomato, for instance, which is rapidly gaining consumer favour in their quest for premium products, the Wellcome sourcing team tested close to 30 varieties from all parts of the world before settling for one species that best suits the local palate.
“We began with choosing the right seed for the chosen species, before locating this Dutch farm that meets our strict requirements for temperature, humidity and water in their greenhouse,” she continues. “As a result, I’m happy to report that the product we have on our shelves is thin-skinned, crispy, sweet and absolutely juicy.”
In line with its corporate philosophy, Wellcome constantly comes up with pleasant surprises. For example, in sourcing asparagus, it is not satisfied with the usual green variety and has freshly introduced a white variety all the way from Peru in South America. The icing in the cake is that this white asparagus is not only juicy and sweet, but also comes at a very affordable price.
Lee points out that the pandemic has added to cost pressures for the supermarket chain, but they have absorbed the extra expenses instead of passing them on to consumers.
As part and parcel of its ongoing commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Hong Kong, Wellcome is extending its popular ‘Low Prices Locked’ program to help the Hong Kong community weather these challenging times. Starting from 1st April, the prices of over 800 selected products have been locked for a minimum of 6 months, providing customers with stability, transparency, and protection against price fluctuations.
“By working harder and smarter, we strive to give back to the community by easing the cost pressure of daily essentials, and bringing them fresh surprises,” Lee concludes.