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M&M Food Market: Reinvention through innovation

Photos courtesy M&M Food Market
Photos courtesy M&M Food Market

For more than 38 years, M&M has been a welcome guest at dinner tables across Canada as the nation’s leading retailer of frozen foods, with nearly 350 locations offering more than 400 easy-to-prepare products and personalized customer service in a uniquely convenient shopping environment.

Starting in 2014, the M&M brand began to transform based on a promise of “Helping Make Real Food for Real Life.” This change included new full-colour packaging design, a redesigned contemporary store concept, updated website, industry leading digital footprint, and a reinvention of the product portfolio.

Innovations across the business
At the core of this transformation has been a focus on innovation, including:

 Food promise to Canadians
After more than two years of cross-functional efforts that spanned the entire business, in the spring of 2018 M&M Food Market became the only national food retailer in Canada that could offer customers a full food portfolio of products that have absolutely no artificial colours, flavours, or sweeteners. This “Real Food Promise” resulted in a complete overhaul of the food portfolio—with 400-plus packages redesigned, 200-plus new products launched, and more than half of the portfolio being new or reformulated. And, the team continues to review and adapt the portfolio to address the needs of Canadians. With the first phase of the “Real Food Promise” in place, the team is now working on improving the nutritional profile of its products further, with particular focus on sodium reduction, as well as saturated fats and sugars.

New, cutting-edge packaging
As part of the food portfolio transformation, M&M has focused heavily on the prepared meals category by launching multiple new products including simmer sauces, soups, pasta, and meal kits. The product development team has also partnered with a new vendor to leverage a cutting-edge packaging technology that is unique in the Canadian frozen food industry. This revolutionary technology flash freezes and then vacuum seals the product to lock in freshness and flavour. The result is incredible looking and tasting food. Each product in this new packaging is microwavable and ready in five minutes, in just one step—no more taking the product in and out of the microwave to stir midway through. The film covering the food rises, creating a bubble that essentially steams the meal to perfection.

New loyalty program
Following more than two years of development and testing functionality and capability, this past year M&M launched the first phase of its new loyalty program—M&M Food Market Rewards. The transition from the MAX program to the new one-to-one based program allows the company to reach customers on a personalized level by tapping into its rich customer database of more than nine million records with 97 per cent of transactions captured since the year 2000 to provide the products, offers, and promotions most relevant to them. In the spring of 2018, M&M added new click-to-load functionality into its e-mails—a critical element of the new program. When customers load their offers, the point-of-sale (POS) system is automatically loaded with applicable discounts for that customer. Next, M&M introduced personalized offers. Rather than all customers getting the same prices and discounts, this new rewards program provides custom recommendations that are relevant to each customer. In partnership with Retention Science, an industry-leading artificial intelligence platform, these personalized one-to-one offers give shoppers the most relevant discounts based on their preferences. By serving up personalized offers, customers are more likely to shop more often and add more products to their basket.

M&M offers customers a full food portfolio of products that have absolutely no artificial colours, flavours, or sweeteners.
M&M offers customers a full food portfolio of products that have absolutely no artificial colours, flavours, or sweeteners.

New POS system
This past year, M&M completed the national roll-out of a new, innovative, cloud-based POS system. There has been great feedback from stores about this tool that provides many new capabilities such as new offer and promotion options for customers, wireless transactions, electronic receipts, and full integration with other IT systems. Not only has this new system allowed for a more efficient customer check-out process, it has provided vital capabilities that pave the way for the launch of other programs such as the loyalty program.

Innovative pricing and promotions tool
M&M has partnered with Clear Demand to implement a program to optimize its retail pricing strategy, facilitate store-level forecasting, and become a flyer building tool where all offers and promotions are managed individually for forecasting across the entire network. This industry-leading platform will change the way M&M does business and create efficiencies across the organization by eliminating many of the manual processes that are managed today. Eventually, Clear Demand will be fully integrated with the M&M supply chain and POS systems, creating even more capabilities. Once fully implemented, the organization and its franchisees will begin to see a direct impact on profitability.

Training and engagement platform
Franchisee and meal advisor engagement is integral to the success of the M&M Food Market business. The training team spent much of last year in search of the right company to help introduce an updated business training and engagement tool. Powered by Axonify, this new program uses gamification, leaderboards, competitions, and rewards to help train staff. Its platform is based on years of research into the benefits of adaptive microlearning in short bursts and is specifically designed to build knowledge that staff will permanently retain. This platform allows for the delivery of information with user-specific content, so everyone can progress at their own speed. The program’s adaptive algorithm personalizes learning to fill individual gaps, enabling meal advisors the chance to build knowledge and confidence to better help customers on a daily basis.

M&M's product development team has partnered with a new vendor to leverage a cutting-edge packaging technology that is unique to the Canadian frozen food industry.
M&M’s product development team has partnered with a new vendor to leverage a cutting-edge packaging technology that is unique to the Canadian frozen food industry.

“Delivering” on its promise
The M&M Food Market Click & Collect program has been very successful for the business and its franchisees. The platform allows customers to place online orders and pick them up at any M&M location across Canada, with a one-hour guarantee, no minimum order and no fees. In 2019, M&M will be going one step further by launching a delivery pilot in two Ontario markets with a goal to eventually expand coast-to-coast.

M&M Food Market is proud to be a platinum member of Canada’s Best Managed Companies and its transformation has earned numerous other accolades, including a silver Maple Leaf Award in the 93- to 232-m2 (1001- to 2500-sf) supermarket category of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC’s) 2016 Canadian Shopping Centre Awards, a finalist award in the in-store experience and design category of the 2016 Excellence in Retailing Awards, and a Website of the Quarter Award from Sitefinity for its online user experience (UX) in the first quarter (Q1) of 2016.

The complete package
For prospective franchise partners, M&M Food Market offers a proven brand history, a complete turnkey franchise package, a simple and cost-effective owner/operator labour model, comprehensive training, and hands-on support from a dedicated team, including food, marketing, franchising, and store operations experts.

The franchisor is actively looking for new franchisees who are passionate about the brand and love food, enjoy working with people, have a track record of successfully managing or leading a team, and are willing to become established in the community where they operate.

Established: 1980
Date of first franchise: 1981
Units: 350
Investment: $100,000 – $500,000
Royalty fee: 4%
Advertising fee: 3% national, 4% local
E-mail: lizr@mmfoodmarket.com
Telephone: (905) 814-2420
Website: www.mmfoodmarket.com

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