A new nationwide study of buying behavior and consumer preferences in deli, dairy and fresh bakery departments shows that shoppers want more fresh food options and less work in the kitchen.
Commissioned by the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA), the study was conducted by Surveylab, a specialist in online market research, and covered attitudes of 800 primary grocery shoppers in the U.S. One big beneficiary of the trend, according to the results, would be store brands.
More than half of respondents say that they buy more private label now than they did five years ago, and 44 percent of the survey respondents say that they currently buy store brands either always or frequently. Frequency of buying is even higher in deli, dairy and bakery, where it reached 47 percent.
“Consumers are making it clear they want convenience and speed in meal preparation,” said PLMA President Brian Sharoff, “and this is creating highly profitable opportunities for retailers’ store brands to respond with their own brands.”
In the PLMA study, shoppers for deli, dairy and bakery were asked, “Which products would you like to see more of?”
In deli, convenience was the No. 1 demand, with four in 10 respondents opting for “more items that can save me time at home.” Following closely were “more restaurant-quality items” and “heart-healthy items, such as low sodium.”
In the dairy department, a better assortment topped shoppers’ desires, with 35 percent of survey respondents wanting to see more variety in general and 38 percent saying they would like greater variety of cheeses in particular.
When it came to the bakery, shoppers had an eye on freshness and health issues foremost, with 31 percent saying they would like more items baked on-site and 31 percent likewise opting for products containing “less fructose, sugar, corn syrup and bad fats.”
With one in four shoppers, more nutritional and freshness information, greater variety of portions and more emphasis on healthy ingredients also were in demand. Among improvements shoppers would most like to see at the supermarket perimeter, product sampling and demonstrations ranked high across all three departments. In the deli, faster service and more nutritional information about deli products were wanted improvements.
The study is part of PLMA’s plan to spotlight store brands’ deli, dairy and bakery at this year’s Private Label Trade Show, to be held Nov. 15-17 in Chicago.
“Deli, dairy and bakery are among the fastest-growing sections at the annual show,” said Sharoff. “We are seeing more companies in these categories who are interested in exhibiting than ever before. One thing we have learned from past shows is that, when companies want to exhibit, it usually means growth in the categories at retail.”
By spotlighting the dairy, deli and bakery categories, PLMA says its show will encourage retailers to expand their offerings and become more innovative in assortment and product concepts. PLMA will feature a lobby display highlighting what retailers are doing. There also will be a special seminar on marketing and merchandising.
Growth in the deli, dairy and bakery has been dramatic, PLMA notes. Deli departments have seen a proliferation of chilled and ready-to-serve entrees, grab-and-go meal items, snacks, salads and side dishes. The dairy section meanwhile has made room for more flavored milk and milk alternatives, sport and nutrition drinks, yogurts, cheeses and other specialty items. The importance of supermarket bakeries continues to rise as the number of independent bakery shops in the U.S. has plummeted from about 20,000 as recently as 1995 to fewer than 6,800 today.
Over the years, PLMA says the importance of its show has grown as private label sales have outpaced the national brands. According the latest industry sales data compiled by The Nielsen Co., private label accounts for $1 out of every $5 in supermarket sales, and unit market share exceeds 23 percent. Total private label sales in the U.S. last year surpassed $115 billion.
In all, the show will present more than 2,700 exhibit booths, an increase of more than 400 booths over the past two years. Nearly 5,000 visitors are expected to attend, including buyers and executives from the leading U.S. supermarkets, drug chains, mass merchandisers, wholesale clubs, convenience and specialty retailers, in addition to wholesalers, brokers, importers and others.