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The Top 3 Trends at The NGA Show and Expo West

In-store experience, the ROI of tech, and natural foods are top of mind
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
NGA Show
The NGA Show featured an impressive presentation by Kathy Risch, SVP, shopper insights and thought leadership at Acosta Group, on shopper preferences, barriers and experiences in the area of food retail technologies.

The past few weeks have seen some of the biggest trade shows in the grocery industry making waves when it comes to understanding trends in brick-and-mortar and e-commerce grocery.

Online Versus In-Store

The NGA Show, in Las Vegas, attracted a record crowd of 3,600 attendees in March, and one session in particular unveiled some unexpected trends in grocery. Kathy Risch, SVP, shopper insights and thought leadership at Acosta Group, delivered an impressive presentation on shopper preferences, barriers and experiences in the area of food retail technologies. Topics ranged from technological ownership by generation, to online grocery shopper behaviors, to in-store tech adoption. 

[RELATED: Big Ideas, Big Speakers to Shine at GroceryTech 2024]

Some of the most interesting takeaways:

  • More than one-third of shoppers order groceries online at least weekly.
  • Half of online grocery shoppers pick up their orders at the store, although delivery is used by many, especially busy Millennials.
  • Gen Z (ages 18-26) is shopping more in-store than online.

Speaking about Gen Z’s surprising shopping habits, Risch said: “It’s really just that they don’t have the frequent need to be running to or getting online and ordering as much, so they’re doing a lot of in-store shopping. They really do love to shop in-store. I think that some of the hypothesis was that, ‘The younger you are, the more you’ll shop online.’ But the reality is that as these Gen Zs are entering adulthood, they really do love to shop in-store.”

The Digital Shelf

At The NGA Show’s Tech Summit, electronic shelf labels (ESLs), which have been around forever, are increasingly winning over retailers looking for solutions to labor shortages and real-time price optimization. Chad Cameron, VP of IT for Associated Food Stores, asserted that the ROI for ESLs is finally here. 

“We wanted to find a solution that could be implemented regardless of current infrastructure, with the same kind of use case or success for any retailer,” Cameron said. “We went with a group that has standard equipment inside, and so all we really needed was one port for the internet. And whether you have a low ceiling or high ceiling, or you’re a 5,000-item location or a 35,000-item location, it’s been seamless. Our very first implementation was around 40,000 tags, and it just works.”

Cameron took part in a session with other retailers who spoke of the customer experience, labor savings and energy efficiency benefits as well. 

“It’s one of the few technologies out there that benefit the large retailer and small retailer,” Cameron added, “and really, this just scales by your size. If you’re a small retailer, your investment’s going to be lower, but the effects and the benefits are still there. It really has been a great addition for us. Fantastic.” 

Health and Planet

At Natural Foods Expo West, in Anaheim, Calif., more than 67,000 attendees hit the “Super Bowl of food” to get a glimpse of the innovation coming to shelves this year. The show took place amid an economic landscape in which natural foods have been facing the headwinds of inflation and consumers trading away from premium products to more mainstream choices — or so we thought. 

Kathryn Peters, head of industry relations at SPINS, told the Expo West audience that natural products are actually outpacing sales of all other products, growing 4.7% to more than $302 billion in 2023.

“And organics are outpacing non-organics across the store as well, both in dollars and units,” Peters continued. “Organics are growing everywhere, and it’s because shoppers trust organic. In fact, if you look at sentiments since 2019, organic and non-GMO have the strongest consumer mindset and comfort and trust. And we particularly see not only are all shoppers starting to trust and look for organics, the younger shoppers, as we’re going to hear a lot more about, really trust this seal. … [as part of this] macro trend of consumers focusing on health and planet.” 

Natural Foods Expo West Show Floor

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