An innovation strategy for a leader in the food industry

Building a digital strategy for increased efficiency and a better client experience? Good idea. Opening one’s eyes to today’s new threats and opportunities and building a relevant strategy for the digital age? Much better. Probably the biggest take-away from our work with Sysco France…
1.5bn €turnover in France
10business cases were formulated during the project
3of those projects are currently being tested

Where we started

As one of Europe’s leading foodservice providers, Sysco France’s purpose is to help businesses that serve food to thrive. In a general context of increased out-of-home eating influenced by a number of factors, our client came to us with a strong intuition that the time had come to take the digital curve with two main goals in mind: 

  • Improve its client experience
  • Increase efficiency in its current activities

where we came in

An exciting project, to which we answered with one strong belief: what Sysco France needed wasn’t just to take the digital curve, but to stay ahead of it. And this sometimes means going further than purely digital considerations.

Our job was to guide our client through an eye-opening exploration of the digital age’s new landscape and prospects. A new perspective which revealed new threats – but mostly a vast array of great opportunities!

What we did

As we so often say, the future is already here. It is often just a matter of seeing it. In this case, we analyzed and broke down the transformations (both digital and not) that are already re-shaping the food industry – bringing us to identify the ones that will strongly impact the group’s business in the near future. We went on working hand in hand with the company’s key collaborators and, together, came up with potential innovative projects that could tackle the challenges we had identified. These solutions were reached following a 3-stage innovation process: Optimization (how can digital better today’s internal processes?); Innovation (how can digital enrich our value proposition?); Disruption (how do we reconnect with the core of our business to better answer our clients’ needs?).

What happened

Our in-depth research and focus on the ever-changing and fascinating food industry – and its out-of-home market in particular – meant we were able to identify and capture the first signs of Amazon’s entry on the food retail market. A couple of weeks later, Amazon acquired Whole Foods for 13,7 bn€. Yep, the future is already here…

Of the ten projects we worked on with our client, 3 have already been started and are currently being developed. Keep your eyes peeled!

I’d like to once again thank the team for the quality of their presentation. We have now started opening our chakras with just the right dose of “simplicity”, strategy and technicity.
Julien Charlier
Julien Charlier, Group Strategy Director, Sysco Europe

Thoughts on the project

Mehdi DziriLead Project Analyst

What were your biggest surprises?

Sysco France came to us because they needed help in defining their digital strategy. Intuitively, we could have considered their online contact points (website and app) as being the cornerstone of the group’s transformation. But we were surprised when we realized how strong the human bond was between Sysco France and their restaurateur clients - even in a market like that of B2B ecommerce in which new standards are defined by key players like Amazon Business whose founder Jeff Bezos believes “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works”!

The group’s sales force is made of sales representatives who visit restaurateurs on the field, and of telemarketers who the clients consider as friends, confidants, close partners in their daily business.

So, more than develop Sysco’s online points of contact, our true challenge was to make digital become an “experience enhancer” for Sysco France clients.


Why is it so important to open one's eyes on one's own market?

The restaurant market is going through major disruptions and an evergrowing blurriness between what is called “out-of-home catering” and “home catering” is ensuing. What should one call a meal ordered via UberEats or Deliveroo and eaten at home? Is it at-home our out-of-home catering? And what about the Frichti model?
The market is evolving and is making way to new players that won’t comply with the traditional model by “simply” adding a link to the restaurant value chain (delivery), preferring to totally redesign a new value circulation model in this ecosystem - and operate it.

These transformations have direct impacts at all levels of the value chain and it is therefore crucial that one understands and analyzes these impacts for a player like Sysco France, even though they seemingly only concern higher levels of their value chain.

What were the project’s key moments?

The project was articulated around 3 major phases, punctuated by 3 deliverables:

  • A strategic and personal report which allowed us to identify the discrepancy between today’s proposed client experience, the client’s needs and the general practices of more digitally mature players.
  • A paper which synthesizes our vision and the strategy built for Sysco France group in the digital era.
  • An implementation roadmap which prioritizes each action and specifies the modalities for the implementation of our intended next steps.



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