Connect With ‘Superconsumers’ to Boost Fresh Department Sales

Mike Eardley
President and CEO
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Connect With ‘Superconsumers’ to Boost Fresh Department Sales IDDBA
When providing doughnuts, grocers must deliver high quality along with such traits as value, convenience and availability

How well do you truly know your customers? How knowledgeable are you on their shopping habits, such as what products truly resonate with them?

These are age-old questions that food retailers have been asking themselves for generations. For many, the answers to these questions have been hard to come by. But finding these answers is becoming increasingly vital to the success of traditional supermarket retailers, given the changing landscape of the grocery industry.

From the growth of online services to the expansion of discounters and fresh food and prepared options at convenience stores, today’s consumers have more choices than ever for satisfying their food needs. Add in the changing food palates and lifestyles of today’s consumers, and the growing trend of away-from-home consumption, and traditional supermarkets face a challenging task in attracting and retaining their customer base.

Fortunately for retailers, the answers to these questions aren’t locked up in a faraway vault or waiting to be solved by a mathematical equation. They’re found by examining purchasing trends, especially those of one important segment of shopper we call the “superconsumer.”


The International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) defines superconsumers as shoppers who are heavy users of products that they’re passionate about. They will seek out and are willing to spend on specific food items. These “missions” make superconsumers an important piece of the overall consumer-spend puzzle.  Grocery can learn from foodservice missions. The key is ensuring that your stores deliver on what they’re looking for, making these products easy for them to find both in store and online; offer creative flavors, tastes and takes on the product; and offer convenient ways for consumers to purchase and consume them.

IDDBA has identified a wide range of superconsumer missions. On the x-axis we have experience, from one side of the spectrum – on-the-go and to satisfy a craving/meet an emotional need – to the other side – not on-the-go and interested in trying something new. On the y-axis is convenience, so the spectrum ranges from on-the-go and time is limited, to not on-the-go and buying now to use later.

Of course, supermarkets aren’t the only option when it comes to shopping. Away-from-home food spending is now greater than at-home food spending, with restaurants benefiting from this trend. This channel is certainly an option for superconsumers on a mission.

A range of concepts can be developed for any given mission to enable consumers to choose the best product or service offering to meet their needs. So how does this trend impact retailer engagement with superconsumers? As an example, let’s look at doughnut superconsumers.

Figuring out the mindset of your consumers isn’t always easy. But it’s not rocket science, either.

Doughnuts to Dollars

Seventy-five million households in the United States eat doughnuts, 60 percent of which purchase them from a restaurant or grocery store. Many of these purchases can be classified as “missions,” whereby a customer is seeking a doughnut (or doughnuts) to satisfy a particular need, whether it’s a craving for an indulgent snack or purchasing a box of doughnuts for a group.

This is an important first step in assessing the variety and packaging of your store’s offerings. The “group buy” purchase helps a consumer treat a bunch of people at work or a family event, and the retailer could win by creating easy-to-carry packages with a grand variety of doughnuts that will in turn keep the grocery front of mind because when that shopper thinks “sweet and convenient group snack,” they’ll think of your store.

Other considerations when it comes to engaging superconsumers are:

  • Implementing concepts that meet consumer needs. For example, offering doughnut holes in convenient snack-size cups for consumers looking to satisfy a craving while they shop.
  • Competing against foodservice in consumer-decision categories where neither channel dominates, such as “satisfy craving/emotional need,” “reward self/others,” “routine” and “fulfill request.”
  • Focusing on peak purchasing times, which could include afternoons. For these times, hassle-free, less wait time and more variety can connect with consumers seeking a break or coming home from school or work.
  • Paying close attention to buying patterns at restaurants, which reveal that weekend sales are greater than during the week.

While convenience and availability are highly important, so, too, are value and quality. For example, 35 percent of respondents in our doughnut superconsumer research said they didn’t buy doughnuts at supermarkets because of inferior quality (compared with doughnuts bought at a “restaurant”). This stat should speak volumes to retailers and compel them to deliver high quality along with the other sought-after product traits.

Figuring out the mindset of your consumers isn’t always easy. But it’s not rocket science, either. It just takes a concerted effort to understand current eating trends in the market, know what other nonretail channels are doing to attract these consumers, and focus on what retailers have always done better than the competition: offer a wide variety of fresh and convenient options for shoppers.

To learn more about IDDBA’s member research, “The Superconsumer Opportunity in Dairy, Deli and Bakery,” visit us at

About the Author

Mike Eardley
Mike Eardley is president and CEO of the Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA). Read More

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