by Cindy Sorensen/founder and CEO, The Grocery Group
Shoppers look to their grocer for solutions, convenience and inspiration for menu planning and meal solutions. I just returned from a grocery industry conference on meal solutions. The consumer research shared by the presenters supports what we’ve known for a long time—shoppers love them. This research has been consistent for years now.
There have been two major forces behind the need to be more competitive and creative in providing shopper solutions than ever before: consumer purchasing and consumption behavior and the retail competitive environment.
Consumer purchasing and consumption behavior have been driven by diet trends that have become very popular: Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, vegan, “free-from” diets, etc. These trends have required manufacturers and retailers to respond with an assortment of products that meet these special diet requirements.
Along with these diet trends also comes serving trends, including bowls, wraps, salads, small plates, bento boxes and snacks.
While consumers quickly have been changing their consumption patterns, the retail environment also has changed. Competition not only includes traditional grocery stores, but now every channel of food distribution offers some type of meal solution.
To stay competitive, every retailer must consider a meal solution program. While the deli and dry grocery departments historically have provided the locations and products for these solutions, the produce department is now emerging as another spot where they can be found.
In fact, one of the most interesting meal solution ideas I saw at this conference was the introduction of meals and meal solutions in the produce department. I love the addition of prepackaged bowls to meet the product trend consumers are enjoying at restaurants.
I also give kudos to the packaged mixed vegetables to fulfill specific recipe ideas provided by the store.
There also is a consumer trend substituting vegetables such as zucchini or squash for potatoes to provide healthier side dish options. The zucchini and squash are cut and ready to be prepared in ways we would traditionally prepare potatoes or noodles.
For consumers looking for sustainability, many vegetables are now packaged in containers in which they can also be cooked, steamed, baked or roasted.
An idea to really boost dollar sales and profit in the produce department when utilizing meal solutions would be to cross-merchandise with the meat department and provide protein (animal or plant-based) recommendations to add to bowls, salads and wraps. Why not include a rack of fresh bread from the bakery, too? Shoppers will love the meal solution that is ready to go and conveniently located in one spot in the store.
Be sure to provide a 360-degree marketing approach to reach and inform shoppers pre-trip, during and post-shopping to let them know about the meal solutions and where they can find them in the store.
Extending meal solutions throughout all store departments will increase store sales and build loyalty with your shoppers. Stay flexible to adjust your meal solutions as shoppers’ diet and product trends change quickly.
Cindy Sorensen is the founder and CEO of The Grocery Group, which focuses on developing leadership in the grocery industry by supporting industry professionals in their career development. The group also develops programs to connect grocery industry professionals to colleges and universities to help attract, recruit and retain a talented workforce in a competitive employment market. Reach Sorensen at [email protected]