Forecasting the Future of Fresh, the Supermarket Stronghold

In food retail, everything starts with the shopper. We operate in a consumer-driven industry with an inextricably linked value chain – consumers are more in control and they expect an engaging and enjoyable in-store/shopping experience. At FMI Connect, we inspired dialogue and optimism on what the Retail Experience of the Future could be by presenting "what-if" scenarios for merchants and their supply chain partners at a virtual exhibit. I haven't stopped imagining that future since I experienced this venue alongside our board of directors.

FMI recently appointed Rick Stein as vice president of fresh foods. Stein will be responsible for developing a portfolio of services and activities to assist members in developing and executing their fresh foods strategies. These categories include everything from perishables – meat, poultry, seafood, and produce, to service departments – deli and bakery, and fresh-prepared meals and related solutions for takeout or in-store dining. This role is an important addition for FMI to implement their retailer and supplier Total Store Collaboration strategic initiative.

The educational and expositional dialogues on fresh further piqued my curiosity as I heard industry experts challenge the traditional ideas of shopper behavior and suggest opportunities for meat, produce, seafood and prepared foods. As shoppers' wants evolve and diversify, is your store prepared for the future? For instance, could your store be the best restaurant in town? As we learned from FMI Connect speaker Barb Stuckey at Mattson, shoppers increasingly tend to shop by recipe, not by category, and selling meal solutions is an enormous opportunity. Fresh is certainly a high growth category for most grocery retailers as consumers are looking for fresh, healthy ready-to-eat foods.

The opportunity for food retailers is clear: Fresh is a supermarket stronghold. In fact, 64 percent of shoppers purchase their produce from the supermarket, according to the Power of Produce survey presented by 210 Analytics at FMI Connect. Similarly, we know from the 2014 Power of Meat survey that the supermarket continues to maintain its grip as the primary channel for meat and poultry products among consumers. Painting another "what-if" scenario, the Power of Produce also suggests a driving need for organization, information and visibility of Fresh in the store.

In order to provide the industry with a cross-category framework to support retailers, wholesalers and service providers in meeting these consumer needs, FMI recently developed a forum called Total Store Collaboration (TSC). Similar to what's currently reflected in the aisles, TSC will embrace wall-to-wall solutions, representing not just center store but the perimeter as well, including: perishables (meat, poultry, produce), service delis, bakeries and fresh prepared foods for takeout or on premise consumption.

At FMI Connect we were reminded that consumers look to food store owners/operators as a partner. This new environment requires a more personalized, in-store experience, and retailers must adjust traditional practices to better serve these multi-dimensional shoppers. Leveraging the Fresh category to meet consumer needs and capitalize on shopping trends can offer a bridge to the future.

For more information, please contact Mark Baum, senior vice president of industry relations and chief collaboration officer, at [email protected].