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10/21/2021

Next Generation of Leaders Poised to Greatly Impact Grocery Industry

An inspiring group of forward thinkers is ready to tackle shoppers’ elevated expectations
Mike Troy
Editorial Director, Grocery Group
Mike Troy profile picture
Next Generation of Leaders Poised to Have Greater Impact on Grocery Industry
The industry needs new types of leaders to succeed in an operating environment filled with uncertainties brought about by a rapid pace of change.

Here’s something to feel good about amid the supply chain, labor and inflation chaos confronting the grocery world.

The industry’s talent pipeline is filled with next-generation leaders who are innovative, inspiring, and committed to serving shoppers and their communities. We know this to be true because Progressive Grocer just revealed its list of 2021 GenNext award winners. It’s an impressive group of 90 individuals who come from the ranks of retailer, supplier and solution provider companies. These individuals under the age of 40 possess the traits and track records of accomplishment that suggest they are poised to have an even greater impact on the grocery industry.

Something else to feel good about is that this group of 90 individuals only scratches the surface when it comes to the depth of talent lurking within organizations throughout the food and consumables industry. We know this to be true because the GenNext program is relatively new and growing exponentially. Begun just a few years ago, industry engagement in GenNext has grown quickly, enabling PG to recognize 25, then 40 and now 90 individuals as “GenNexters.”

These individuals demonstrate a commitment to the grocery industry, displaying innovative thinking to overcome challenges, an ability to inspire others and a willingness to make an impact in the world beyond their work. Since this program is in its infancy, we are confident that there are a lot more GenNexters out there waiting to be recognized as industry engagement with the initiative grows.

That’s good, because we also know that the industry needs new types of leaders to succeed in an operating environment filled with uncertainties brought about by a rapid pace of change. They’ll have to deal with the operational basics related to achieving profitable sales growth, but they’ll also have to do so while serving shoppers with different attitudes, preferences and behaviors. We know this because PG just completed a proprietary shopper journey research study, “The New Age of Elevated Expectations.”

This research looked at shoppers between the ages of 18 and 34 who are entering their prime household formation and spending years, and will become a major force in grocery. These shoppers have high expectations for food that tastes good, is affordable and convenient. They also want to spend money with companies that they perceive treat workers well, and will stop frequenting those that they discover negative news about on social media. Many still live at home and frequently pay with cash, but also expect frictionless payment methods.

They make up an interesting group with interesting views, especially as it relates to physical stores. More than half think that stores are a great way to discover interesting new products, but other results are more troubling: Double-digit percentages of those surveyed said that shopping in a food store is something they avoid doing, will do less of in the future, or is something that “old people” do. Nine percent said that shopping for food in stores is “a waste of time.”

Ouch! That’s a big challenge for grocers intent on maintaining store traffic while further embracing digital methods. There are other big challenges, too, based on the research, but grocers can take comfort from the 90 innovative and inspiring GenNext award winners in their midst who are ready to make an even bigger difference.

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