Changing Times: Grocers Evolve with Shifting Consumer Habits

Published on December 6, 2018 in Grocery and Areas of Expertise
Jeffrey Edison
Jeffrey Edison
CEO

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In an environment where consumer shopping habits are rapidly changing, grocery stores are standing out among their retailer peers for their adaptability.

Over the past decade, there’s been a significant shift in the way families approach meals, how they think about food and even the way most individuals choose to spend money. These profound changes underpin a facelift within the modern supermarket that is helping grocers continue their legacy as a necessity-based retail center that is vital to consumers’ daily lives.

Grocers' response to these shifts have proven incredibly innovative.  These innovations fall into three broad categories: 1) changes that cater to the time-pressed customer’s demand for convenience, 2) modifications that meet individuals’ desire for more experiences in life and 3) advancements that appeal to a food-conscious, or even food-obsessed, millennial generation. Some of the key changes that fall within each category are as follows:

Catering to Convenience: Every Second Counts

Many of the in-store changes acknowledge the fact that families are constantly on the go and have little time for planning or preparation. Roughly 75% of people decide what they will have for dinner less than two hours before the meal. As decisions are made on the fly, cooking time is even more compressed.  

Grocery stores are addressing this paradigm with convenient offerings that remove steps from the cooking process.  Grocers are expanding behind-the-counter hot bar and salad bar offerings so that consumers have a wider option of ready-made meals they can simple bring home and eat. They are also experimenting with new bundling services that gather all the ingredients an individual or family needs for a specific meal, so they can grab the box and quickly prepare at home. Other stores are eliminating cumbersome steps in the meal-prep process by offering services such as a chopping service in which employees cut vegetables and fruit for the customer.

Some grocer innovations transcend food service and seek to address other pain points in consumers’ busy schedules. For example, Publix grocery chain has partnered with a Florida hospital to blend offline and online medical help. As part of the service, a consumer can utilize in-store devices to check items such as blood pressure or temperature, while communicating with a doctor online to diagnose a medical issue.

Modern Grocery Stores: Part of the Experience

Another key change in the past decade is that consumer wallet share has shifted sharply, with spending migrating from physical goods to experiences. Largely, due to their necessity-based nature, this doesn’t affect grocery stores. Groceries are irreplaceable staples and spending on basic goods hasn’t been shunned the way it has for discretionary items. But supermarkets are finding ways to capitalize on the experience-based trend.

First, grocers are increasingly introducing features that encourage shoppers to meet up and hang out. Some stores have added Starbucks coffee shops, while others have added in-store restaurants. New taco and sushi bars with expanded seating areas also entice people to visit the store for lunch.

Other innovative in-store features bring the customer back for recreational and social needs, such as refilling a growler of their favorite microbrew or talking to a wine or cheese expert about the best pairing for their next party.

Food Matters: Servicing a Food-Conscious Culture Among Millennials

Most people regard what they put in their bodies … but millennials are taking food obsession to new extremes. With greater education and awareness of food, “Generation Yum” has put a high priority on freshness and locally sourced foods. In response, grocery stores are updating merchandising with entire sections or aisles dedicated to locally grown produce. Grocers are also adding features such as in-house nutritionists to establish themselves as the source a food-savvy generation can turn to for peace of mind about food quality.

In many cases, these adaptations represent big investments for grocers, but by continuing to evolve with changing consumer needs, they entrench the grocery store as a neighborhood, community “hub” that is central to our daily lives. This in turn reinforces the stability and value of grocery-anchored retail centers.
Jeffrey Edison
Jeffrey Edison
CEO