Shopper intelligence firm Catalina has unveiled new research showing that the center store is still a key driver of trips and volume for grocers, with more than 99 percent of all shoppers buying from the section last year. According to “The Center Store Revolution: Innovation Drives Trips and Category Growth,” brands that roll out novel, frequently niche products addressing evolving consumer motivations are keeping the center store relevant.
Pinpointing the biggest subcategory gainers and losers in the center store, the report also shows that specific cross-category consumer preferences, among them “heart-healthy,” “low-fat,” “trans-fat avoiders” and “GMO avoiders,” are spurring the growth of some of the fastest-growing product subcategories.
Among the big winners identified by Catalina are nonfat/low-fat ice cream (up 66.9 percent in dollar sales, while regular and premium ice cream fell 3.3 percent); value-priced entrée frozen dinners, which are increasingly emphasizing healthy options (dollar sales up 32.9 percent, trips up 24.2 percent); sparkling/seltzer water (dollar sales up 14.9 percent, trips up 5.5 percent), as well as ready-made coffee drinks, window and glass cleaners, fresh rolls, dried meat snacks, vinegar, value-priced bath tissue, and various snack and candy subcategories.
Additional report findings include:
- The center store accounted for 60 annual trips per shopper, per store, down just one trip per shopper, per store from 2016.
- 99.5 percent of all shoppers frequented the center store in 2017, spending an average of $1,408 a year in the section.
- 81 percent of all shopping baskets included at least one center store item.
“The center store is alive and well,” asserted Marta Cyhan, head of marketing for St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Catalina. “Some eight in 10 baskets we looked at included a center store item, but many consumers are looking to discover something different. A new generation of brands and subcategories are reinvigorating the center store by appealing to lifestyle and ingredient-based preferences.”
Added Cyhan: “Our study demonstrates that brands and retailers who can understand today’s shoppers based on their underlying motivations and meet their evolving needs with product innovation will be a growth engine for the center store. The ability to engage the right shoppers based on ingredient-level targeting will help these brands efficiently grow their business.”
The study tracked center store sales for 18 million shoppers at 6,658 grocery stores across the United States. Purchasing behavior, sales and trips for the full 52 weeks of 2017 were compared with the same period and the same stores in 2016. Center store was defined as encompassing grocery, frozen and home care categories, with tobacco and alcohol excluded due to local legal variances.