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PG's Grocerant Summit Aims to Inspire Retailers


With a full slate of expert speakers, a host of exhibitors representing diverse suppliers, and attendees representing many of the industry’s top retailers, Progressive Grocer’s first Grocerant Summit opened Tuesday at the Hilton Chicago Northbrook Hotel.

Harry Stagnito, president and CEO of Stagnito Business Information, publisher of PG, outlined the first-ever event with a laundry list of trends driving growth in grocery store foodservice, including health and wellness, local products, convenience, fresh, organic and natural – all opportunities for grocers to capitalize upon as points of differentiation in driving repeat visits and store sales.

Emotional branding

A further opportunity, Stagnito noted, is tying emotional branding to the customer experience. This point was explored by Christopher Brace, CEO of Shopper Intelligence, in his presentation exploring shoppers’ emotional connection to “Dinner in America.”

Brace said grocers need to connect with parents through a deeper understanding of mealtime, which is quality time that creates an emotional family anchor. Retailers must communicate with shoppers by understanding the emotional triggers behind their shopping and consumption behavior.

A shopper’s most valuable asset, Brace asserted, is their attention, and retailers must strive to win it by connecting with their “emotional truths.” As shoppers stand in line at the deli, he suggested, “what are retailers doing to emotionally connect with them there?”

Changing foodservice landscape

Penny Anderson, director at The NPD Group, explored “Grocery’s Place in the Changing Foodservice Landscape.”

While Millennials and families with children have driven restaurant declines, fast casuals are leading in overall customer satisfaction, prompting other operators to up their game. Grocers have an opportunity with consumers who eat at home to save money but must compete with other emerging channels, including “food forward” c-stores geared toward convenience.

Anderson noted lessons that grocers can learn from fast casuals: customization, craveability and experience. “Consumers have endless choices, so differentiation and relevance is paramount,” she said. Retailers can further capitalize on convenience, freshness and variety.

Too important to fail

Eric LeBlanc, VP of deli marketing at Tyson Foods, discussed “The Consequences of Failure,” citing statistics showing that 41 percent of shoppers reported problems with their prepared food shopping experience in the past 90 days, and more than half of them used that as a reason to stop shopping at a particular store for at least a while.

With 70 percent of shoppers deciding what to have for dinner on the day of the meal, grocery “doesn’t do a good job of talking to shoppers before they make dinner decisions,” LeBlanc said.

A major failure with the fresh prepared shopping experience is staffing, he said – not so much with how many, but what associates are doing and how they’re trained.

“Grocery competition is too intense for us to shrug off shopper disappointments,” LeBlanc declared.

Outside the box

Closing the day’s sessions was Susan Weller, principal at SW Branded Concepts, presenting “Out of the Box: How Subscription Services Inspire Grocerant Activity.”

With boxed recipe services like Blue Apron and Plated gaining popularity, Weller said, grocers have an opportunity to learn from their success and offer similar services to tap new revenue, enhance customization and tap other store resources such as corporate chefs and dietitians.

Weller’s session split into six ideation sessions in which PG staffers and guest facilitators led attendees in brainstorming how grocery retailers could generate their own concepts, results of which were displayed in the summit’s Solutions Center.

The Solutions Center, which hosted breaks and mealtimes, featured supplier booths offering samples of prepared foods ranging from sandwiches and appetizers to chef-inspired plated entrees.

Follow #GrocerantSummit reports on Twitter from @pgrocer, @jimdudlicek and @JoanPGrocer.

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