What do gig labor, plant-based crab cakes and nonfungible tokens have in common? They’re all part of the big bet that grocery retailers are making now on the future of the industry.
Two years after one of the most challenging events in world history, Progressive Grocer’s 89th Annual Report and The PG 100 ranking of the top food retailers in North America show that the nearly $3 trillion grocery industry is in the throes of a different kind of transformation this year, one that involves not just new technology or consumer habits, but also the evolution of an industry’s identity.
That’s because the pandemic has changed the American identity: how consumers work, shop and eat. Over the past year, grocers have had to confront a deadly virus, supply chain disruptions, a difficult labor environment and rising costs as the pandemic ebbed and flowed through the lives of the American grocery shopper and worker. Long-term shifts toward online shopping and remote work will have far-reaching societal implications, and the consequences will continue to be felt at the grocery store.
Perhaps this year we’ll see retailers just end up selling groceries in the metaverse — or is it the grocery-verse?
In the meantime, what should grocers in real life be doing to drive growth amid constant change? Be smart about keeping employees healthy and happy. Be prepared to act fast on technology and food trends. Personalize everything, from curbside pickup coupons to store checkout belts to marketing texts so that the customer can’t help but be loyal. And prepare for more supply chain disruptions and higher costs.
If the grocery retailers listed in The PG 100 want to emerge in the same or a better position five or 10 years from now, they will focus on reimagining strategies for the 12 themes driving innovation and grocery growth now: employee experience, physical store design, alternative food trends, foodservice innovation, last-mile speed, purposeful retailing, store-brand premiumization, hyper-localization, checkout-less transactions, retail media, inflation-busting operations and virtual reality. These are the topics poised to have big impacts on grocers’ operations this year and beyond.
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