Published on: January 26, 2010by Michael Sansolo
ORLANDO, Fl. -- In the midst of economic meltdowns, format proliferation and so much more, it’s easy to forget root issues that shake an industry. But the simple truth is that there has been no single factor that has impacted the food industry as much as this:
Thirty-five years ago 47% of mothers with school aged children worked outside the home. Just prior to the current economic downturn, that percentage was 71%.
In the process, mealtime changed radically and moved countless billions of dollars out of the aisles of supermarkets and into food service establishments from McDonalds to Starbucks to Chili’s, Applebee’s and more. And in the process, food stores and products changed radically to make putting a meal on the table easier than ever.
Yet the battle rages on and the lingering question is why should anything be different tomorrow?
This morning at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Midwinter Executive Conference in Grande Lakes, FL, the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council is delivering some new answers to that question thanks to a new study prepared in concert with NPD, a well-known researcher of food service trends. More than answers, though, the study outlines the changing challenges facing supermarkets in the battle for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time. The battle, the questions and the challenges deserve consideration yet again.
(Full disclosure: I remain a participating member of the current Council and helped work on the research and preparation of this report.)
NPD’s research unearths some interesting ways of considering the challenges of different meal occasions, including some incredibly contradictory behavior during the course of daily meals. For instance, the same people who complain about boredom with meal choices at dinner have no problem eating the exact same breakfast daily. What’s more, the same shoppers who put a heavy premium on convenience are increasingly willing to add a stop in their commute to buy coffee.
As NPD carefully shows, each meal has different characteristics, which means the battle facing the supermarket changes by the meal. And that in turn means the strategies supermarkets must employ require a constant examination of shopper behavior and needs to make sure the mix is constantly shifted for success.
The report clearly outlines areas of opportunity, specifically an overall 2.2% increase in sales growth per store if aggressive measures are followed. Yet, it also lays bare some incredible challenges, including how the drivers of meal decisions at dinner can be both strengths and weaknesses for supermarkets. A big part of that is that dinner is largely a one-hour experience from preparation through clean up, yet sadly, eating is a relatively small part of the hour.
In the course of the report, NPD examines the drivers of meal decisions during each part of the day, the impact of changing demographics and the incredible opportunity for sales growth if supermarkets can start winning back meal occasions. (You should shortly be able to click here to read the entire report under the tab for the North American council
The motivation to read it couldn’t be any simpler. As former Supervalu CEO Jeff Noddle said at an FMI Midwinter meeting just a few years back: The loss of meals has impacted supermarkets more than Walmart, Costco, Whole Foods and others. The battle goes on.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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