At an interesting time for American retailers, with consumer confidence low and inflation on the rise, we spoke with David Wagstaff, VP North America, St Pierre Bakery, about why the challenges of the current climate present an opportunity for retailers to engage shoppers through quality, consistency, and instore experiences.
Whilst the U.S. is, at time of writing, not in a recession; with one predicted before the end of Q1 2023, how can retailers address shopper concerns?
Now is a great time for retailers to lean in to premium brands – with the understanding of what ‘premium’ means for shoppers – beyond price point. For consumers, the trend for premiumisation is here to stay. Previously, shoppers were elevating their meals at home because they couldn’t travel or dine out in the pandemic. Now that the cost of living is on the up, consumers are still looking to treat themselves well at home.
Preparing and consuming better-quality foods along with entertaining guests at home is once again becoming more convenient and cost effective than dining out. Elevated meals and quality products that save shoppers time and provide an easy solution for quality entertaining at home are doing well throughout the store.
Retailers offering a trade up in one area of the grocery store can drive increased sales in other areas. For example, a shopper who opts for a premium brioche burger bun from St Pierre is more likely to pair it with premium meats and cheeses. Our innovative merchandising and standout branding catches the attention of shoppers – and we know that St Pierre shoppers have a higher basket spend as a result of opting for our quality baked goods.
As a U.K. based company, we know what the impact of supermarket price-matching and increased cost of living has on the ‘middle shelf’. As a result, we’ve seen time and again that premium brands win out. Many of the categories where this is true – and especially in bakery – have been renowned for leaning in on private label. This is changing; European retailers combat that ‘squeeze’ of the middle ground by opting for branded offerings that deliver excitement and theatre in the fixture. St Pierre is well-placed to help U.S. retailers do just this and we are seeing this trend developing – reinvigorating the in-store bakery and in some cases the main bread aisle, by delivering a quality shopping experience that starts in-store and continues at home.
Which grocery sectors, in particular, hold the most opportunity in the current climate?
It’s absolutely vital that retailers offer an experience throughout the store, but there is much more opportunity to do that in the perimeter and particularly, in the in-store bakery.
We work in partnership with retailers, offering them innovative merchandising solutions and bespoke marketing support which means we are driving footfall to the ISB and increasing basket spend. That is key for retailers as we continue to move forward in the wake of the pandemic and on the brink of recession.
Retailers need to cater to the experience of their shoppers – rather than just the function of their stores. For shoppers, it’s emotional more than practical and that’s why it carries such great opportunities for retailers to drive impulse purchase, away from the grocery aisle.
Notable feedback from shoppers, is that generally, they shop in both the deli and the grocery aisle – so the two areas obviously deliver something different. The grocery deli is where shoppers go for premium, quality products and often head to the in-store bakery area because it delivers that experience of fresh made bread and baked goods. It’s that setting that has secured St Pierre on-shelf standout and a point of difference. But it’s also about the inspiration which is particularly important to consider when more shoppers are upgrading everyday meals at home. Retailers who can deliver inspiration for breakfast, lunch and dinner will thrive – and St Pierre can help them do that.
We are a branded, quality product sitting in the instore bakery, offering new ways for consumers to experience great baked goods. From our Eiffel tower stands that communicate our heritage to our inclusion in rustic bakery baskets – we help deliver an unrivalled in-store experience in a way that private label goods simply cannot.
By highlighting authenticity, cross-selling with the breakfast, brunch and snacking occasion products and clever merchandising, we are able to provide the tools for retailers to maximize sales and basket-spend.
Our branding, with the flash of orange and where we sit in-store, has always been a point of difference for us. St Pierre is the ‘original’ and is truly America’s favorite brioche. Our packaging is designed to highlight our authenticity as a quality French product and our packaging currently does that, with nods to Paris.
A key part for us is in communicating as a ‘lifestyle’. We like to say St Pierre is a ‘taste of Paris’ with every bite and St Pierre is more than just food on your plate – it’s the experience it brings. That is at the heart of our product development and is part of the reason we are launching a new bake at home range and a first-to-market Brioche Pretzel Roll in 2023.
How can retailers communicate value and quality to shoppers, especially when they’re feeling the impact of increased costs of living?
What happens when consumers ‘feel the pinch’ is not that they spend less money necessarily, but that they become more discerning with where and how they spend that money. That means that brands and suppliers offering quality goods have an opportunity.
The financial difference for consumers between buying ‘good’ or ‘best’ is marginal – therefore, shoppers are more likely to opt for the better quality or premium offering. It’s different if you’re talking about cars or high-value purchases, but everyday grocery brands are subject to a different purchase journey and knowledgeable brands – and retailers – should be ready to highlight quality goods to shoppers.
This also creates an opportunity for St Pierre specifically; because we win out in independent taste tests on taste, texture and flavor, we understand that driving trial is key. Whilst inflation might create a more risk averse consumer, perceived quality is so important.
Inflation is being felt across the board, in every sector. So there’ll be two camps of shoppers, those who spend a little extra knowing they’re getting a better quality product and become brand loyal; and those who don’t spend the extra, but then don’t have an experience that keeps them coming back.
We are working with retailers to help protect basket spend in a climate where perceived value is so important to shoppers. We are rewarding loyal shoppers with consistent quality while supporting our customers by reviewing pack sizes that help to maximize sales. We offer four and six count options on our best-selling Brioche Burger Buns which offers appeal to different sized households but also answers the question around value through a “bigger pack better value” approach in difficult times.
For more information, visit stpierretrade.com.
Wagstaff is passionate about the food industry; he has worked across a number of high-profile F&B sectors for more than 25 years, in many international markets including the U.S., China and Europe, creating value and building brands.