Center Store shoppers bought a healthy dose of products boasting nutritional benefits this year.
Fortified energy drinks, water, teas and coffee touting “healthy calories” spurred the fastest growth in the non-alcoholic beverage category, while wine and spirits siphoned sales from beer, the longtime market leader.
Specialty items ranging from human grade pet food to imported pasta spurred sales that grew at more than three times the rate of food sales overall, while the popularity of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate sweetened sales in the candy aisle.
Retailers helped consumers sort their selections out by adding icons to private-label packaging and nutritional ranking systems at the shelf level.
Meanwhile, grocers scaled the nutritional learning curve by taking cues from each other.
Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., is considering implementing Hannaford Bros.' “Guiding Stars” nutritional ranking system. Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., and Carteret, N.J.-based Pathmark signed marketing agreements with Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats Markets to distribute items from its natural and organic private-label line in their respective stores.
Retailers also invested heavily in expanding their premium tier company-brands.
More than half of respondents to SN's third annual survey of Center Store activity expressed plans to expand their natural and organic lines, 40% said they'd add to or update their ethnic private-label lines and 41.5% said they'd update their specialty company-brand products.
Retailers were urged to price to the value of these products to avoid inferior quality perceptions that often hinder private-label sales.