(Editors' note: This is part three of a five-part series)
Sure, supermarket operators always want to differentiate from their rivals in any given geographical area — particularly in notoriously overstored regions like the Southeast — but the ways that they’re doing so are changing in tandem with shifting consumer needs.
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For instance, when Annual Report survey respondents were asked about the most influential department in driving their stores’ overall brand, image or point of differentiation, meat and produce actually tied at 21 percent each, perhaps reflective of consumers’ rising interest in eating greater amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, while last year, meat was the clear front-runner, selected by 37.8 percent of respondents, with produce lagging behind at 12.2 percent. Deli/prepared foods, a well-publicized section of late, garnered 15 percent, down from 17.6 percent in 2017.
Next were the growing sector of private label, at 13 percent, up from last year’s 6.8 percent, and center store, at 11 percent, a precipitous decline from the 37.8 percent logged in 2017. Organic offerings, chosen by 8.1 percent of respondents last year, fell to just 2 percent this year, suggesting that with the wider accessibility of such products, shoppers are less likely to see them as a unique draw.