FreshDirect Buoys Customers with Seafood Stars

Last Updated Jul 15, 2009 12:08 PM EDT

FreshDirect is giving out more stars and providing new insights into how retailers can sell commodities like fresh food online.

The Internet-based home delivery retailer, which operates in the New York metro area, has a problem it needs to address in that it sells a lot of premium perishable food, such as produce and seafood, to people who would sniff and poke and prod the stuff to ensure its quality if they were buying it in a store. To help its customers make choices on line, FreshDirect has expanded a star system developed for produce to seafood. The company actually assesses items on an individual basis as an extension of its quality control process, then has trained employees rate them. Introduced this month in seafood, the program provides recommendations that are accurate for deliveries on the day following the ranking. If wild flounder scores a four-star rating on the FreshDirect web site Tuesday, it is one of FreshDirect's top selections, guaranteed to be great for next-day deliveries.

As the company had designed it, the rating system offers three assessments:

  • Five Stars: Never better, simply outstanding, the best of its kind.
  • Four Stars: Great, a don't-miss, peak-season product.
  • Three Stars: Good, dependable product, sure to please.
A FreshDirect spokesperson, said that the rating system is another way for the company to provide an added value service for its customers, in this case by helping them select the best quality product available. "The company has had such success with steering customers towards the produce that it recommends with its star rating system that it wanted to introduce it in the seafood department," she said.

The initiative not only helps with familiar products but also encourages FreshDirect customers to try less familiar items, as the confidence the quality assessment provides makes taking a chance on something new less intimidating.

"FreshDirect hopes that it will help encourage customers to try some fresh seafood that they wouldn't ordinarily buy," the spokesperson added.

The system may even address customers' recessionary desire that a relatively pricey purchase like seafood provide quality commensurate with the price asked. It builds upon earlier initiatives in the seafood operation including the introduction of local, day boat and wild product selections designed to address the preferences of different consumers.