CHICAGO -- Providing consumers with easy meal solutions is a major key to the revitalization of Center Store.
This message was delivered to attendees at the presentation "Revitalizing the Center Store," led by Richard George and John Stanton, professors of food marketing at Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, Pa., during the recent FMI trade show.
"Convenience will mean a re-vitalization of the center of the store," Stanton said.
According to statistics, everyday at 4 p.m. about 40% of American adults are still deciding what they're going to eat for dinner that evening.
"That's our fault in academia, and at retail, wholesale and manufacturer levels, for not being able to solve that problem," George said.
In a study cited during the presentation, Stanton said consumers polled deemed supermarkets less convenient than going out to the restaurants.
"Convenience is going to come from the revitalization of the center of the store. We have it there, we just have to make some changes and modifications."
Because Center Store accounts for about $115 billion in sales, with segments like the canned fruit category generating almost $2 billion, its a perfect place to begin adding value to the shopping experience, he added.
"Center Store will lead to fewer stops and more planned inventory, which will lead to more money for us.
"Supermarkets can focus on all aspects of consumer defined convenience. And, the good news is that we don't have to buy a whole lot of new equipment, we don't have to do a lot of revamping, because we already have the products in the store today that are going to solve those problems," Stanton said.
The speakers provided some examples of how retailers and manufacturers have made shopping easier for consumers, and offered suggestions for future endeavors.
Stouffer's Skillet Sensations product, which comes in family-sized portions, proclaims "just add nothing" on its label, while Marie Callender's label states "Homestyle Cooking with the Care of Marie."
"The manufacturer's have focused on these very issues and they're driving that message home on their packages," George said.
Retailers can provide convenience through a variety of resources, from the planning, shopping and meal buying/transporting stages through the meal preparation and cleanup, according to the speakers.
Retailers can also capitalize on the customer's desire for suggestions by providing five-day menus, holding theme nights -- Italian, Cajun, Tex-Mex, etc. -- recommending complimentary beverages and including items in meal solution ideas that some consumers may not be too familiar with, such as couscous.