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PG's Grocerant Summit: Changing Consumer Thinking


To have a successful grocerant program, retailers need to construct compelling narratives that resonate with customers and invite them into the experience.

That's according to William Rosenzweig, dean and executive director of The Food Business School of the Culinary Institute of America, opening Progressive Grocer’s 2016 Grocerant Summit on Tuesday near Chicago. The two-day conference and trade show welcomes retailers and suppliers for networking, inspiration and guidance. 

Rosenzweig said retailers need to offer consumers the opportunity for greater discovery to amplify their in-store culinary experience.

In order to do this, grocery retailers need to understand how the nature of food shopping has changed for consumers. Eating occasions are now split between meals and snacks, with new eating occasions arising like pre-breakfast snacks and late-night meals. This offers prepared foods departments expanded opportunities, Rosenzweig said, citing data indicating that 77 percent of all eating occasions incorporate prepared foods. He suggested that grocerants become the shopper’s "sous chef" by providing elements that they can make their own, like selling stocks for them to create their own soup and other prepared components aimed at inspiring unique finished meals.

To be competitive in the foodservice market, grocery retailers must demonstrate culinary leadership, possess a cohesive culture, leverage customer insights and spearhead innovation, Rosenzweig asserted.

Too Big To Fail?

In many grocery operations, deli "is a four-letter word" in need of an immediate fix, contended Eric Le Blanc, director of marketing, deli and convenience stores for Tyson Foods. LeBlanc and his team cited research indicating that, on average, deli shoppers are less satisfied with the prepared foods department than they are with the store overall.

The conversation about deli products needs to be changed by educating customers on how to use prepared foods to create meal solutions, the Tyson team argued, inspiring shoppers to become better at executing new ideas which, when combined with products from throughout the store, will revolutionize the department and its image.

Similar to Rosenzweig’s idea that the department become the consumer’s sous chef, Le Blanc and his team suggested that retailers need to teach customers how to use the food from the department and add their own personal touches to create satisfying meals. In addition, grocers need to do a better job of reminding customers that they have the whole store at their disposal to create that meal at home. Supermarkets won’t and can’t be quick-service or fast-casual restaurants, he said, but they have opportunities that those concepts do not.

Once the conversation changes, retailers will find success when they move away from product-centric thinking to meal-centric solutions, the Tyson team concluded.

Rounding out the afternoon were presentations by the Beef Checkoff and Niemann Foods, demonstrating how collaboration on a heat-and-eat "beef bowl" meal solution line is driving sales for the Midwestern retailer; and Milliken & Co. on the willingness of shoppers to pay more for prepared foods packaging that is both clear, to show product quality, and microwaveable, to simplify reheating at home.

Additionally, event attendees enjoyed food samples and equipment demonstrations from a host of supplier companies displaying their wares during breaks and a cocktail/dinner hour.

Follow live event coverage on Twitter at @pgrocer and @jimdudlicek

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