Which store departments are being transformed into the battleground where the future of supermarkets is being fought?
The answer at this moment seems to be any department having to do with fresh products. That's especially true as competition from outside the industry mounts -- competition that is firing home-meal-replacement salvos deep into the prepared-food territory held by supermarkets. Can supermarkets withstand competitive blasts from HMR enemies such as Boston Market, Kenny Rogers Roasters and the vast number of others that aren't so obvious? Clearly, the answer is that not only can supermarkets remain fully competitive, they should prevail. After all, supermarkets have a lot more going than just the ability to become HMR providers themselves -- they also offer the full array of products that HMR belligerents will never be able to field.
But how should battle be waged? Information is key to taking high ground in this contest. So, it's in the spirit of providing critical intelligence that Supermarket News this week launches two new sections aimed at fresh merchandising. The new sections supplant SN's Fresh Foods section in which SN pioneered news coverage of the battle for consumers' HMR dollar. The addition of new sections is in recognition that the HMR contest has become more than an isolated skirmish.
As for the new sections, one is called "Fresh Meals," which you'll see on Page 19; the other is "Fresh Market," on Page 23. Let's take a look at what these new information sources will do this week, and in the future. Fresh Meals is where you'll learn more about the host of entrants into the HMR arena, and about strategies they will pursue in their bid to eat supermarkets' lunch. This week's Fresh Meals takes a look at the Atlanta area, viewing it as a microcosm of things to come in the food industry. A news feature cites the several unlikely prepared-food competitors emerging in that region, such as a chicken outlet in a Home Depot, fast-food purveyors in gas stations and several upmarket takeout providers, some offering a few grocery staples. These are all emerging adjuncts in the new world of competitive clashing. Look to Fresh Meals each week to chart the territory for you, and to document successful supermarket responses thrown against these insurgents. Meanwhile, the new Fresh Market section features information about fresh categories that have long been covered by SN, categories such as meat, produce, bakery and so on. These too are growing in critical importance to food retailing. Look to both new sections for more than news features, of course. As is true of virtually every SN page, the new sections also will have breaking news -- the ongoing chronicle of events just happened that only a quick-turning publication such as SN can consistently deliver. I hope you'll find the new sections instrumental in your effort to prevail in the HMR battle.