Upscale Grocery: A New Focus on Presentation and Experience

rows of candy in store

Several decades ago, the average grocery store was pretty much just that: average. It offered few services other than aisles of fresh produce, boxed items, beverages, frozen foods and deli and bakery sections.

Gradually, the grocery store experience started transforming. Stores began stocking international cuisine. Some introduced their own cafes, sushi bars and on-site restaurants where consumers could sit down and enjoy a meal before or after shopping. The experience has only continued to evolve.

What are the trends that drive upmarket grocery stores today? These stores have a primary focus on presentation and experience, but what should consumers expect in the months and years to come?


A Strong Concept Is Crucial

According to Mark Dunson at Chain Store Age, grocery stores have gradually shifted attention to the concepts they offer instead focusing solely on the stores and products themselves. This allows them to stand out in an extremely competitive market.

“The food retail industry is simultaneously consolidating and differentiating,” Dunson explains. “…The mindset winning today is that you need to ‘get big or get niche’ to capture more of the market. And the addition of the new click-and-collect options, online retailers and delivery methods are also pressing traditional supermarkets to rethink their business approach.”


Events Engage with Consumers

While good sales will always attract people, grocery stores with enough space can also appeal to consumers in other ways: with regular events, for example, says founder John Karolefski in a press release. Some examples he’s seen include cooking demonstrations and lessons, nutritional tours and hors d’oeuvres or wine samplings.


Personal Shoppers Do the Work for You

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to prepare a shopping list, give it to someone, have them do all the shopping for you and then deliver the food right to your doorstep? This isn’t a lavish fantasy, says Jim Gold at CBS MoneyWatch. Certain grocery stores are offering this exact service with “personal shoppers who hand-pick items at customers’ favorite stores.”


Organic Foods Are Preferable

More so now than ever, consumers want to know exactly what’s in their food. They don’t want to look at a food label and scratch their heads at the ingredients. Organic foods have fewer, more natural ingredients. According to financial company Duff & Phelps and its 2016 Food Industry Insights Report, consumers are able to get organic foods at better prices as more conventional retailers offer them.



The Concept of Grassfed Expands

When you think of grassfed, you probably think of it in relation to beef. Dana Leigh Smith at Eat This, Not That! says grassfed products are expanding to include cheese, yogurt, eggs and even protein powder. Since these foods are “leaner and filled with more health-boosting nutrients like CLA and omega-3 fatty acids,” it’s no wonder consumers want more.


The Robotic Shopping Cart Transforms the Future

We’ve already mentioned how personal shoppers make picking up groceries a breeze. However, if you do have to do the shopping yourself, you might get some help in the form of robotic shopping carts.

Susan Reda at the National Retail Federation notes how these carts are still in the early stages, but they would include a touchscreen that acts as a shopping dashboard. You can make payments right through the dashboard and even find aisle shortcuts for faster shopping.


Online Grocery Shopping Is Also Convenient

Besides personal shoppers and robotic shopping carts, grocery shopping has also become much simpler due to online shopping. From upmarket to traditional stores, more and more grocers have time-saving apps and e-commerce sites, says Sonya Bells at investments resource Market Realist.

The numbers are in: “according to Brick Meets Click data, online grocery sales as a percentage of total grocery sales is expected to increase 11-17 percent by 2023,” Bells writes.


Premium Foods Are In Demand

Foods with premium labels are beginning to gain more momentum, says Retail Leader. The company shared a Mintel study, which found “22 percent of consumers said they buy premium products, and 34 percent said they are willing to pay more for them.” These premium foods can be anything from ice cream to produce.



Home-Cooked Gourmet Is In

Consumers have realized they don’t necessarily have to go to a restaurant to get gourmet food. They can cook flavorful, fancy dishes themselves. Food consultant Karsten Schellhas notes how this change has led to grocery stores stocking more creative ingredients and foods like “18-month old prosciutto, three-year old English cheese, or 30-day, dry-aged Wagyu beef.”


Indoor Vertical Farms Are Versatile

INFARM is a small business that has created indoor vertical farms by the same name. According to Michelle Havich at design:retail, “the plants grow on a thin layer of water enriched by fertilizers and oxygen, while custom LED growing lights mimic the sun.” The result is truly fresh produce that grocery stores can sell any day all year long, regardless of weather or location.


Premade Meals Take the Guesswork out of Health

Many consumers want to eat better, but they’re not sure where to start. Adi Menayang at FoodNavigator-USA cites a report from Nielsen that found consumers prefer premade meals that almost seem “personalized” for them. “…think ready-to-cook marinated meats, mix-and-match baked goods, and the shining star of personalized produce, packaged salads,” he says.


Grocery Stores Now Have Their Own Bars

Does grocery shopping stress you out? Do you wish you could enjoy a drink or two after shopping? At some grocery stores, you can, reports SteadyServ Technologies, an Indiana company that produces a draft beer management solution.

They wrote about the Giant Eagle Robinson Market in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which has its own onsite bar. It’s not all fun and games, though. The store “does have a few rules to follow: if you do buy a single serving of beer, you must also buy food (not groceries, but food from the bar).”



Bakeries Offer Tiny Bites to Satiate Appetites

Many experts have noted that while consumers generally are trying to eat better, they also like to have some sweets every now and again. Some grocery store bakeries are responding to this with a refined bakery menu, says the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA).

Stores that emphasize “‘built-in portion control’ like individual cake slices, parfaits, and cake pops are garnering increased interest as part of the snacking megatrend,” notes IDDBA.


Open-Air Farmer’s Market Design Wins with Consumers

Laura McQuarrie at TrendHunter has found that grocery stores designed like farmer’s markets appeal to consumers, partly due to their open-concept spaciousness. She wrote about a store called DekaMarkt World of Food, which features clearly identified “areas for picking up coffee, tea, bread, smoothies and more” and has a café where their just-purchased goods can be enjoyed.


Private Label Products More Popular

Consumers are becoming more comfortable with private label offerings and store brand products, says Mike Sleeper at food news resource The Shelby Report. In fact, he writes that the private label category “…is projected to grow 62 percent to $133 billion in 2016. It also is projected to outpace national brand counterparts due to increased consumer acceptance and value.”


Sensors Can Guess Which Days Consumers Will Shop

Kate Taylor at Business Insider explains an innovative technology that grocery chain Kroger started using back in 2012. Called QueVision, this sensor, which looks like any other camera found in a grocery store, feeds managers “…real-time knowledge of when long lines will happen and where cashiers are needed before a pileup even begins.”

Today, line-ups average less than 30 seconds, down from four minutes before the tech platform was introduced.

Images by:
Clem Onojeghuo, ElasticComputeFarm, Tariq786

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