Shoppers are happily heaving 24-roll packs of bath tissue, 300-ounce jugs of laundry detergent, and 24-packs of bottled water into their carts.
Beyond nonfood, they're buying oversized bags of rice, tubs of drink mixes, and canned vegetables and meat in shrink-wrapped packs of four. Campbell Soup multipacks are permanent items in some supermarkets' category planograms, noted Mark Heckman, co-founder, Strategic Retail Solutions, a consulting firm in Bradenton, Fla. Of course, juice boxes and snack packs have long been sold in multipacks.
Yet views vary about how far supermarkets can take this trend.
Todd Hale, senior vice president of ACNielsen Consumer Insights, said the strategy could extend to anything consumers see as being relatively high-priced, "and a lot of nonfood cleaning products are seen in that way."
Products in high-volume, high-use categories like breakfast cereal are ripe for super-sizing as well, said Paul Weitzel, vice president, Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill. Beyond the center of the store, Hale sees the large packages of fresh meat popular in warehouse clubs selling in supermarkets, too.
Supermarkets are far from getting deep into big package sizes of fresh or packaged food, though, contended Leo Braido, sales and marketing director of Riesbeck Food in St. Clairsville, Ohio. "Large sizes are generally accepted at a club because that's their claim to fame." When shopping at a supermarket, though, "does someone really want five pounds of cereal?" he asked.
Todge Armata, owner of Ted's IGA, Hebron, Conn., is cautious about moving beyond paper and detergent to food for another reason. "We've stayed with high-consumption items, and seen increases," he said. "But as we expand, we have to be careful + you may be taking the consumer out of the market for an extended period of time. They would tend to be not in the store as often."
An aging population may also curtail the growth of big package sizes, and the club channel itself. "One has to question," wondered Hale, "as boomers age and their kids leave the household, are they going to continue to shop clubs the way they have?"