Target's Evolving Food Strategy Aims for 'Meaningful Differentiation'


Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part PG exclusive interview with Target Corp.’s SVP of Merchandising Anne Dament. The full interview appears in PG's August print issue. Part one can be found here.

When asked to elaborate on the most advantageous opportunities residing in Target’s total grocery and perishables portfolio, Dament replies: “We look at center store categories as an ‘and’ – yet not necessarily an ‘or.’ We do a really good job at many areas in center store,” which she classifies as “a very strong performer in some segments. But we know we must have a well-rounded portfolio of fresh products,” including produce, meat and dairy. “It’s really about building the entire grocery basket, and satisfying the right assortment across the store for our guest,” she explains.

At its core, Dament says, “It’s about being easy and uncomplicated for our guests. Given the very competitive sets and formats we have across our portfolio, it would be easy to say we want to be all things to all people. But at the end of the day, having exclusive products and compelling own-brand products and lines is a really key part of our strategy,” an example of which is Target’s alliance with the Cooking Channel’s “Fabulous Beekman Boys” – Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge – to launch a 48-item line of exclusive Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry products.

In Search of Meaningful Products

Describing the Target-Beekman Boys partnership as “incredibly strong,” Dament says: “We worked closely to create a unique ‘farm-to-shelf’ line,” which includes locally grown and handcrafted ingredients like heirloom tomato pasta sauces, goat cheese salad dressing and hand-rolled granola. Each product features recipes developed by Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell, and also funnels a percentage of profits back to small farms across the country.

“We really like partnerships like this," which Dament says further enhance the retailer's existing Made to Matter line of purpose-driven brands and meaningful products, [which] offer our guests memorable, accessible, sustainable products with a curated assortment,” and which also dovetail well with Target’s established Simply Balanced and Archer Farms house brands. “We will continue to curate our assortment with products that are unique and impart differentiation in our portfolio,” she says.

It’s all part of an overarching strategy that Dament notes “ties back to our core strategy of being a trusted and reliable source for our guest. And when it comes to brands and products within our portfolio, and what we are learning about our guests’ preferences, we are striving to really cater to their needs. When we look at innovation when working with our suppliers, we want to make sure they are also catering to our guest behaviors as well, and the brands that are winning are doing exactly the things I just described, with an established approach to satisfying our guests’ needs.”

Lighting Up the L.A. Initiative

Target is also cooking up new ideas to further evolve its in-store experience through food revamps in select markets such as the SuperTarget in Minnetonka, Minn., which was due for a full remodel. “We saw it as a great opportunity to put some food tests in motion in order to provide a closer look at how guests respond, and fine-tune as needed, moving forward,” explains Dament. Among the store’s updated features are a revamped product selection; new displays, layouts and signage; and fresh produce in an open-market format with prominent signage for organics and locally grown foods. In addition to an expanded selection of granola, yogurt and better-for-you snacks; baked-fresh-daily artisan breads; and grass-fed beef, the store boasts a do-it-yourself grain bar with nutrition information front and center.

Pleased with the progress made in Minnetonka, Dament and her team ventured west to the Los Angeles market in January as part of the company’s LA25 initiative, which aimed “to capitalize on our findings with assortment, format, guest experience and execution initiative across the grocery arena. And we’re super-excited about the work that we’re doing in L.A., where our stores are very locally focused. We have categories of priorities across the floor plan where we lean heavily toward signature categories like yogurt, beer and wine — specifically craft beer — and a heavy emphasis on local L.A. products. We’re also building a really exciting relationship with our store teams about how to best curate [store-specific] assortment, in order to provide the best selections that stand for a local presence, based on our L.A. guests’ needs.”

Other elements of the LA25 grocery overhaul, Dament continues, include new product displays and more in-store sampling, as well as wood-grain overhead signs and updated shelves with a black-and-gray color scheme. Additionally, a greater emphasis is placed on cross-merchandising products, such as grilling must-haves like ketchup, mustard and hot dog buns, to make it easy for families to round up all of the products they need to create easy and delicious meals.

“We’ve also updated lighting, flooring and fixtures in the fresh market area, and added new bins to help enhance the produce presentation for our guests,” among other tactics, all of which Dament believes imparts a “brighter and more organized store that’s very easy to shop, and really showcases our high-quality approach to perishables.”

While Dament’s plate is certainly full, she remains upbeat and energized by the rewarding results and favorable feedback tracked thus far. During a recent visit to Target’s Los Angeles stores, Dament seized the opportunity to observe guests navigating through the grocery aisles, where she says they appeared “more leisurely and satisfied. I found them stopping, browsing  and more carefully studying products before placing them in their carts,” a discovery she describes as both encouraging and invigorating.

Even better was the unsolicited guest, shopping for her son’s birthday party, who approached Dament to offer feedback on Target’s food transformation. Dament was unsure what to expect, but the guest’s comment that she had “no idea Target had so many great, quality brands” made the executive’s day.

“She went on and on, and it made me feel really good that we not only had a first-rate curated assortment across the whole grocery area, but also that she was able to get what she needed across the remainder of the store,” observes Dament. “That’s the kind of experience we’re working on in the L.A. market, and we’re going to watch it closely and test and learn from here.”

Dament's continuing journey – and Target’s – will indeed be well worth watching.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds