Published on: February 2, 2022
I did a FaceTime video yesterday in which I suggested that retailers ought to embrace the popularity of air fryers by setting up special sections with foods that can be cooked in the devices.
Not everyone agreed.
One MNB reader wrote:
While I do agree with you that this is a great idea, the timing isn't great due to staffing issues, and in many cases product out of stocks, which have been huge in produce departments recently. We are dealing with regular customers, Instacart shoppers, and the in store pickers for customer pick up.
Excuses all, but they are legit. It's a struggle right now just to fill the department, so I think this is an idea for later in the year when/if staffing issues ease up.
And, from MNB reader Scott Gehrke:
Your comments about creating a merchandising location for items or recipes particular to preparation in an air fryer reminds me of another time years ago when another cooking tool was finding it’s place on kitchen countertops ( I am dating myself!).
I’m talking about the microwave oven. Early adapters mostly used the new oven for warming up leftovers. At the time, there were limited recipes and limited items in the stores with “microwave” cooking instructions.
When customers started looking for microwave items many retailers responded by creating and merchandising a “microwaveable” category.
The category grew so fast they had difficulty maintaining it. Manufacturers scrambled to develop new items or even just incorporate microwave cooking instructions for existing items.
The end for the new “category” came as microwavable items proliferated and customers sought items where you would expect— in their traditional categories!
I think it is possible the air fryer could have almost as much impact on meal prep as the microwave oven.
If I were a manufacturer, I would quickly be considering incorporating “air fry” cooking directions (and highlighting the information) on appropriate items!
As a retailer, I would not plan a long term merchandising display as you apparently suggest but there are any number of other opportunities to develop and promote the new air fryer cooking.
I would argue that the phrase "long term merchandising display" ought to be banished from retailers' vocabulary. I'm not sure of the section would last three weeks, three months or three years … if I wanted to be more competitive, more differentiated, and more likely to survive in a cutthroat environment, I'd be looking for any way possible to cash in on an existing shopper trend.
And sure, staffing issues create problems. Not to be overly flip, but everybody has staffing issues. Putting hardball competitive initiatives on hold until things ease up strikes me as a recipe for obsolescence.
Yesterday we reported that Ahold Delhaize-owned, Carlisle, Pennsylvania-based The Giant Company yesterday announced "the launch of Ship2MeT by GIANT and Ship2MeT by MARTIN’S, giving customers access to an expanded assortment beyond traditional grocery categories and all delivered directly to one’s home."
I admire the impulse, but what I've never resolved in my own mind - and I am open to guidance here - is whether a food retailer, which by definition should be what used to be called a category-killer in the food category, is well-served by a long-tail approach that embraces categories not connected to what should be a core expertise.
Would food retailers be better served by culinary investments that strengthen their core value proposition?
I do think that related categories are fair game - cookware, for example. Small appliances. Cookbooks. (All things available through Ship2Me. But bedding? Shower heads? (Also available through Ship2Me.)
I'm just not sure. Guidance welcome.
One MNB reader responded:
Totally agree that Giant needs to focus on their CORE business (and making that better) before trying to become an “Amazon” solution.
I am a Giant customer and do the majority of my food shopping with them. Can’t tell you how many times I stand in front of my loaded pantry and fridge and think what can I make for dinner? Giant knows what is in my basket (and my pantry). How great would it be for them to send me a recipe a week with ideas of how to use some of those pantry items? And maybe throw in an idea of items I do not typically buy but are related to other items I do buy, along with a recipe to try those new items. Giant needs to stop worrying about Amazon and Walmart and start thinking about how they can become more meaningful to their loyal customers before those customers are not so loyal anymore!
Fair point, delivered efficiently. And pointedly.
And, from another reader:
This was a thing a few years back, or was it ten years ago? Several supermarket chains tried it but it just kind of went away. I'm guessing it wasn't very profitable.
Lots of things have been tried and failed … but not always because they were bad ideas. Sometimes they just weren't done well.
Maybe now is the time. I remain skeptical, but open-minded.