"Trouble in Aisle 5," a new study from Jefferies, the global investment bank, and AlixPartners, suggests that traditional food-at-home vertical retailing "is likely to see its challenges accelerate over the next few years. The study ... finds that a confluence of factors appear poised to rapidly transform the food-at-home industry. The confluence of changing demographics, economic factors and customer preferences has the potential to create a long-term disruption across the food-industry value chain that transforms where and how consumers shop for groceries as well as what products they choose."
According to the study, "The root cause of the impending transformation lies in changing demographics. Over the next decade the baton will be passed from one mega-generation to another as 'Millennials' (born between 1982 and 2001) come of age and 'Baby Boomers' (born between 1946 and 1964) enter the next phase of their lives and spending patterns. As a result, established food brands and traditional grocery stores will be pressured at both ends by sets of consumers with very different value equations."
Among the shifts that the study predicts will offer retailers both challenges and opportunities:
• Convenience is more important to Millennials - "they expect to get what they want, when and where they want it, and they know they have options for both products and retailers."
• "Millennials are much less loyal to both food brands and traditional grocery stores and much more willing to explore different distribution models (online shopping, smartphone shopping, delivery services, etc.) and spread their shopping across different brands and channels (mass merchants, club stores, drug stores, convenience stores, online, etc.) to fulfill their consumable needs."
• Millennials are also more price-sensitive than Baby Boomers, but they are "willing to pay more for the specific attributes they value: convenience, freshness, health, variety (of flavors, international/ethnic cuisines, product sizes, etc.,) and natural/organic."
"The at-home food industry is just beginning to feel the impact of this major demographic shift as Millennials rise in prominence and Baby Boomers adjust to meet the requirements of age and a fixed income," says Scott Mushkin, Managing Director and Senior Equity Research Analyst covering Food & Drug Retailing and Packaged Food at Jefferies. "The bottom line for food-at-home industry stalwarts is that big changes are coming, and companies who don't fully understand those changes risk being marginalized."
No argument here. If retailers think that existing store formats will satisfy the next generation of consumers, they're sadly mistaken. Just think about how your kids are different from you in almost everything they do ... and work on the assumption that shopping is also going to have to be a different experience to satisfy them.