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It’s never been more important... Think big. Start small. Scale or fail fast. Restart. Key learnings from our Covid-19 comeback in the making...

15 juni 2020
Many of the Covid-19 effects on our business have been mitigated thanks to an increased focus on experimentation, flexibility and swifter decision-making. At Greenfood, we’ve put a lot of effort into intra-group collaboration, augmenting while focusing our product portfolio and starting to form our comeback plans already in the beginning of the crises...while staying nimble. This approach took us through the toughest times of Covid-19. And with strong growth regained across our group as well as with more than 150 reopened salad bars every week, we’ve definitely left some of the toughest times behind us...for now.

The pandemic is affecting large parts of the economy. Many businesses have been forced to wake up to a new reality. A reality with massive impact on businesses and people. We too had to wake up to this new reality, thus making tough decisions inevitable. We forced ourselves not to panic and only direct our mental resources to things we thought we could impact.

We adjusted the organization quickly with the consequence of great people having to leave our company (or on some markets being borrowed by our fantastic customers) while the pressure on the remaining people increased. We accelerated the pace of innovation, increased the individual autonomy with regards to experimentation and invested heavily into understanding the immediate changes in customer and consumer demands while trying to look beyond the horizon.

We’ve always been deeply innovation-oriented, but when the market trembled, we quickly realized that our culture will be the primary tool for us to come out stronger on the other side. The needle’s eye of decision-making had to expand quickly, requiring us to emphasize the parts of our culture that facilitate autonomous and swift decision-making. Our teams relayed heavily on their collective experience and insights when making sense of this new reality, while fostering the idea that the gap between idea and trial must be minimized even further.

We also encouraged increased collaboration between the different companies and brands within our group that consists of 27 operating companies in eight different European countries. Collaboration with customers has also been intensified to shorten lead-times as well as sharing and comparing insights and conclusions. While this approach is common ground to us, accelerating and intensifying this has minimized the time between idea, trial and launch.

Covid-19 has effectively forced us to cut out all non-materially-value-creating aspects of our innovation process while involving external stakeholders earlier in the process. Consequently, trust between the parties has increased, time from start to finish has decreased and the success rate has improved, dramatically improving the amount of success per ‘time unit’ invested.

A great example of this is the accelerated launch of our AI based life-module that reduces 250,000 work hours p.a. for our customers by making more parts of our business autonomous. Another example is that we in just four (4) days re-thought our popular Picadeli salad bar for some retailers and temporarily added tasty pre-packed products from our food-to-go brand Greendeli – making it the largest food-to-go launch in the Nordics. On the same note, we gave birth to prepacked Picadeli salads (something that has been internally debated for years), which temporarily found their home in our salad bars. These are examples of rapid conversion driven by leveraging the parts of our culture that foster quick and autonomous decision-making. This approach contributed to dampening the economic impact of Covid-19 while still offering customers and consumers increased value.

Now that the market has started to recover, the demand for fresh, healthy food is high once more – perhaps even higher given the preliminary lessons learned from Covid-19. Picadeli’s sales have increased by >50 per cent per week since mid-May and the rest of group has showed double-digit growth every week since early May.

Our focus has always been on making healthy food more accessible and yummy through strong food concepts and great products. We aim to continue doing so in the future; thus, Covid-19 has neither changed our vision nor our trajectory.

A crisis is always painful and challenging for an organization, and often frightening for employees faced with turbulence and uncertainty, but clearly communicating trust in their ability to quickly adapt and empowering decision-making can enable coming out of the crisis healthier and with renewed confidence to outperform past achievements.

Having that said, we definitely emerge from this crisis with important lessons about ourselves, our customers and the consumers.


Greenfood’s insights into product development and innovation in crises:

  • Don’t panic!While there are millions of things up in the air during a crisis, direct your efforts to the things you can impact…and not too many things at once.  
  • Wake up to a new reality fast...really fast. Understand what customers and consumers need right now, work closely with your customers on product development and innovation in order to acquire the correct insights faster. Have several concepts underway simultaneously...because some of them will fail.
  • Tough times require tough decisions.Speed and determination are important elements to minimize negative effects during a crisis. Make the decisions as soon as possible. Plan for the worst and hope for the best have seldomly been truer.
  • Speed in innovation is key!Move from idea to finished product faster than ever. In times of crisis, rapid innovation and agile action are the difference between success and failure.
  • Priority!Cut out all non-materially-value-creating aspects and focus on what adds value to our customers and tomorrow.
  • Increase the individual autonomy.Create the conditions for the organization in order to have short decision-making paths and give large trust to your employees.
  • Leveraging experience is crucial.Make use of the experience that exists throughout the whole organisation. The entire organisation’s accumulated experience is important...but only if it’s used.
  • Need of split vision.Understand the market now, but also the market after the crisis. Never forget to maintain a long-term focus as well...otherwise you’ll trip.
  • Stay true to your core.Innovation is important, but never walk away from your core business or what made you successful. Your business may have to make tough, necessary decisions during a crisis, but don’t forget about the life afterwards.
  • Think big. Start small. Scale or fail fast. Restart.Large masterplans become obsolete before they’ve even been written down and decided upon. Dare to beta test of product ranges, concepts and products on a smaller scale as you go along.

/DvL, President & CEO Greenfood Group & Picadeli