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A look at Kepak’s new loyalty programme, Food Alliance, which rewards customer loyalty with brilliant prizes every month – and an interview with the woman who set it up, Kellymarie Gleeson head of Marketing for the Kepak Foodservice Ireland business.

Registration is now open for Food Alliance, a remarkable new customer loyalty programme, designed by Kepak to reward its great group of customers with brilliant prizes they choose. Fly to New York, spend a day at a spa, or contribute to charity – it’s up to you!

Food Alliance is a point-based loyalty programme and it couldn’t be simpler to use: every time customers purchase Kepak products, they earn points. If there are promotions on, they might win double points. At any stage, they can decide to redeem, play or share points – or a combination of all three.

What’s involved in redeeming, playing and sharing points?

When a customer ‘plays’ points, they enter for a monthly draw – the prize there might be a free store makeover or a trip for two to New York. When a customer ‘redeems’ points they pick up a reward, which is either a personal reward – a trip to a spa or a golfing outing or a flight to a European destination – or it’s a business reward like marketing material or branded aprons. Finally, when a customer ‘shares’ points, they contribute their points to our charity of choice, the Jack & Jill Foundation, Kepak then matches these points and the total is translated into a financial contribution.

Food Alliance Customer Loyalty Program - What's involved in redeeming, playing and sharing points?

How many points proportionally does it take to play or redeem?

The focus is on rewarding steady customers so this is a really good loyalty programme. To give a rough example: a good customer generally purchases products amounting to anything between 2000 and 5000 points a week. We have both personal and business rewards, customers could be redeeming a reward every month. It takes just 300 points to enter the monthly draw. And customers can decide for themselves how much they want to share to contribute to charity, Jack and Jill Foundation

How does one join the programme?

It’s very simple – go to or and register; you can also download an app. You automatically earn points every time you place an order, and these points mount up very quickly. You can also earn points by attending a course at the Kepak Centre of Excellence or by giving feedback through Kepak’s online surveys. And when you first register, you get a free welcome gift which is a round of golf, a spa treatment, a family day out, or a €200 holiday voucher!

How long have you been with Kepak?

I’ve been working here ten years. I started as Marketing Executive and now I’m head of Marketing for the Foodservice Ireland business.

What do you like most about the job?

I love my job. This is a family company and a very supportive place to work. I like that this job is challenging and that every day is different – I might be meeting with customers, working on a new product development, or planning point of sale. There are always new and interesting challenges. And what really makes it for me is that I admire our customers – their hardworking ethos and passion for what they do. It’s deeply rewarding to work with them to constantly improve their businesses.

What, in your opinion, makes your business unique to your customers?

Understanding that every sector and customer has different needs is one of our strengths, offering great products and service solutions (such as digital menuboards & online ordering) are another. What makes us unique is that in our Foodservice Centre of Excellence and Innovation our customers can experience the user-journey, from branding to cooking and preparation, to the serving and best of all – the tasting. We regularly host training workshops for customers on all aspects of the foodservice experience. I know from feedback that our business accelerator courses are greatly appreciated.

What do your business accelerator courses offer?

They are an initiative I’m particularly proud of because I helped to set them up. We offer courses in different aspects of running the business – so for instance, a course on store layout, or on digital online marketing, or on staff training, or on creating great products – through our Burger Academy, we demonstrate making the perfect burger. These courses are typically held in-house here in Kepak; they are free and take just 3 hours, because we know our customers can’t take too much time away from their businesses. We’ve had brilliant feedback, with customers feeling the direct benefit. We held six courses last year; in 2018 we’ll be holding eight courses, and I would urge all our customers to sign up to a few of them. Have a look at what your challenges are – staffing, online, store layout etc – and come and get expert advice.

Describe a typical working day for you.

I might meet with customers one-to-one in our Centre of Excellence and talk through their challenges – which might be how to develop slower times of the week or how to train staff. These sessions are very solutions-driven. Nobody knows their business more than the owner, but I can bring the experience of working with people facing similar challenges. After meeting customers, I might go to the product development team to work on a new product. We are constantly innovating in Kepak and the focus is always the consumer – to help our customers we need to second-guess what consumers want to eat, when they want to eat it and how much they’re prepared to spend. Finally, I might spend time strategizing – developing novel initiatives which will really help our customers grow their businesses.

How did you come up with the idea for Food Alliance?

We started with the customer. Kepak is a family business, as are most of our customers’ businesses. We know how hard our customers work and we understand the challenges. And of course we really appreciate loyalty, as any good business does. So we wanted to reward loyalty, and when I was thinking how the best way of doing this, I felt that personal as well as business rewards were really important. Because I know from my dealings with customers that they find it really hard to take time off for themselves. Running a takeaway is all consuming; there is always something to be doing. But it’s important to take time to yourself, for your own wellbeing and therefore the wellbeing of the business. I consulted with customers at every stage in developing Food Alliance and I think our rewards are customer-focused. They will improve quality of life, and it’s dynamic and fun for people who are buying our purchases anyway to be in the position of playing, sharing or redeeming.

You’re now ten years with Kepak. Have you noticed differences in consumer tastes since you started out?

Yes, consumer tastes and wishes evolve all the time and any good business needs to keep on top of them. Some of the things I’ve noticed are the shift to online ordering. Some of our customers are reporting that 30 percent of their business is now online. That’s an astonishing growth in just a few years, and because it’s driven by millennials, it will only increase. Businesses need to embrace this so we worked with Flipdish in developing an ordering app, which has got very good feedback. Another very noticeable change is that snacking and smaller portion sizes is a thing now. Previously people wanted a big meal at lunch and dinner time; now they might come in at 3pm and want to graze. We’re embracing that trend by developing our ‘sidekicks’.

What drives food trends? Is it suppliers? Media? Or consumers?

It’s consumers. A good supplier will keep their finger on the pulse so they’re in line with developing tastes but it’s the consumers themselves who drive change. That said, consumers are influenced by other consumers. So for instance, in the fast food industry, tastes and trends start in the United States, move to the UK and then come to Ireland.  From our point of view, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on trends in the States which is why we look at the QSR Top Fifty at this time every year and identify the new trends coming down the line.

What do you think is the next new thing in the food world?

I think telling your story will be key. Let your customers know who you are, where you’re coming from, what your food ethos is. Don’t presume that they will know if you don’t tell them; they won’t. A bland faceless business isn’t the right one for now. Let your customers know about your heritage – if it’s a family-run business, tell them when it was established; and let them know about emphasis on quality and freshness. The provenance of your ingredients is really important. Talk about supporting local suppliers. If your sauces or batters or spice mixes are home-made, let customers know. Your story is unique. Share it.

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