Simplyfresh has been chosen by NHS Scotland to develop its first healthy hospital convenience store concept, The Grocer can reveal.
The franchise was selected ahead of many other symbols and multiples, to create a format conforming to recently published directives for retailers operating in healthcare buildings.
Launching as Aroma Convenience by Simplyfresh, the 450 sq ft pilot, in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, is due to open on 23 March and will complement the existing NHS Aroma Coffee offer selling fresh and ambient products with a strong focus on health.
“Our ethos is all about healthy eating and best of British products, so we’re delighted to be part of this pilot project,” said Simplyfresh MD Kash Khera.
At least 50% of the food range must adhere to strict healthy eating criteria set by the Scottish government to discourage patients, visitors and staff from buying products high in sugar, salt or fat.
Food products less than 100g must contain less than 17.5g of fat, 22g of sugar and 1.5g of salt and 70% of drinks on sale must be sugar-free.
Promotions are also controlled under the legislation: the new store cannot run offers on baked goods, savoury snacks, confectionery, biscuits or fruit juice. And although meal deal offers are allowed they must contain a portion of fruit, drinks cannot be high in sugar, and sandwiches should be less than 400 calories and contain salad.
Simon Ross, MD of food and drink consultancy Ross & Brown said: “The SimplyFresh brand is the natural fit for the venture, offering us the perfect operating model and reflecting that healthy eating ethos we are trying to promote,”
“The team has done a fantastic job developing a basket that reflects the strict requirements set out by the new directive.”
If the trial store is successful, there is potential for the Simplyfresh format to open in 31 other hospitals featuring NHS-owned Aroma Coffee stores, as well as other closed units across the UK.
“The potential is not just in hospitals,” Khera told The Grocer. “For this type of retailing where clients need be very mindful of having a healthier offer, such as universities or colleges, there is a lot of opportunity.”
The store will be run on a franchise basis. The NHS will partner with current corporate clients to run the day-to-day operations should it open further sites.
Simplyfresh, which was founded in 2009, currently operates over 80 franchise stores and is 20% owned by Costcutter.
Khera admits legislation may not make the stores the most commercially successful of its estate but will create recruitment opportunities for franchisees across the border.
Currently working with five potential retailers in Scotland, Khera said: “This trial is a great way of introducing Scottish customers to the SimplyFresh brand.”
“There is definitely an opportunity for this type of retail that isn’t currently available in Scotland.”
Assistant director of Health Facilities Scotland, John Wright added: “We are delighted to pioneer the latest development in the Health Facilities Scotland Aroma portfolio,”
“We have partnered up with SimplyFresh to deliver what we think will bring an exciting new look to NHS retail services and provide many more healthier food options for patients, visitors and staff.”