retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times has an excellent piece about Michael Ruhlman, author of the new book, "Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America," which looks at some basic inconsistencies in the American supermarket industry.

"Shoppers are increasingly shunning the processed, packaged products that fill most of the shelves in the center of the store," the Times writes. "Instead, they are hunting the perimeter for fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurts and cheeses, and prepared foods that go way beyond the traditional rotisserie chicken."

Grocers, the story suggests, "face a quandary: how to maintain a huge store whose center is filled with items that are largely out of step with how we eat today, yet are a steady source of slotting fees (to secure the best spots in the store when a product is introduced) and other payments from the companies that produce them.

Ruhlman "predicts that much of what is sold in the center of the store — the cereal, canned soups, detergents and Ziploc bags — will be largely bought online in the not-too-distant future as food shoppers become more accustomed to e-commerce. To repurpose their acres of space, he says, supermarkets could develop specialties that make them more competitive ... And he believes that many supermarkets will simply get smaller, as people order more online and consumers buy groceries from more places."

You can read the entire story here.

Ruhlman, by the way, appears to have a pretty good publicist ... he's also featured on national Public Radio's The Salt, and you can read/hear that interview here.
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