With sales per square foot averaging just over $11 a week, floor space is precious in any conventional supermarket. Reserving even 15 feet for a demonstration kiosk isn't an easy decision.
Yet, food retailers are embracing — once again — the idea that action stations designed around meal solutions are a sound investment. Demo programs have been slowly attracting renewed interest over the past several months, with an emphasis on convenience, speed and health.
“They're located in the perishable area of the store, big enough for two people to fit behind,” said Paul Simon, spokesman for Schnuck Markets, of the company's Schnucks Cooks program. “It's basically a portable cooking station where our coaches demonstrate how to prepare a quick family meal.”
Schnucks Cooks, launched last November, will have 23 stations operating by the end of this year.
Healthful meals are a key component of these newest retail programs, and the reason why many stations are situated in or near health-focused departments, such as produce. Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa, has said it plans to expand its presence in meal preparation, using the chain's in-store dietitians as a featured component.
Any discussion of the topic wouldn't be complete without mentioning Publix, with its long-running Apron's program. Launched as a one-store test in May 2000, Apron's can currently be found in most of the retailer's 961 stores throughout the Southeast. The program has become a template for the industry, built around in-store cooking demonstrations, recipe cards and readily available ingredients merchandised at the kiosk.
This past July, Publix increased the wellness quotient by introducing the “Sensible Recipe” icon, denoting meals “that provide not more than one-third of daily needs for calories, fat, sodium and carbohydrates based on a 2,000-calorie diet and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” said Dwaine Stevens, a Publix spokesman.
Supermarkets without the spare room — and large stores looking to augment their meals programs — have installed touchscreen kiosks that offer information, recipes and coupons throughout the store. The self-serve units are highly mobile and can be customized to promote any department.
Schnucks recently introduced such a kiosk program. Each store features three fixtures, including one each in the meat and wine departments, that provide printed recipes, wine pairings and information on a variety of health conditions.