EDITOR’S NOTE: Center of the Plate

Meal planning is much on the minds of those involved with the store core. From the rollout of the “Smart Choices Program” -- envisioned as a comprehensive, consistent nutrition-labeling system across CPG brands and even stores – to the planned theme of “Pasta Meals on Every Family Table” for the upcoming World Pasta Day 2009 event, the grocery industry is working hard to persuade U.S. consumers, who are eating at home more often during the recession, to choose center store products when whipping up their own creations.

Even home-cooking maven Paula Deen is stepping firmly into center store this fall with a new line of frozen seafood items. Expect even more initiatives aimed at luring shoppers into the center store for tasty, convenient – and, yes, healthier – solutions to the age-old “what’s for dinner?” dilemma.

Of course, dedicated food technologists are working on improving products before they end up in the store or on the table. Allied Enterprises’ exclusive Benelact process, which has now succeeded in naturally removing 45 percent of the cholesterol from cheddar cheese, is just one of the innovations that should have a positive impact on center store product selection and, ultimately, consumers’ quality of life.

Beyond the meal occasion, the Beverage Information Group’s finding that U.S. distilled spirits sales were still healthy despite the financial downturn presents an opportunity for grocers that carry the category to make the most of it through savvy displays and promotions. With indications that the economy may be about to bounce back, let’s all raise a glass to better days -- and better sales -- ahead in center store.
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