Joachim Schneider

Fun at the Grocery

The food and nutrition topic continues to cover news space and cover headline attention. Among the latest developments, the purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon, which my colleague Adrian commented about. This made me reflect: what changes might we observe when food moves from field to stomach?

The fresh category on the shop floor continues to lead; it serves as the business card of the advanced retail outlets. The more sophisticated a country market is, the more you will find the fresh produce section right at the entrance of the shop and additional effort is spent presenting an image of freshness, naturalness, wellness and choice. Undoubtedly, the space that the fresh category takes up in shops is on the rise.

Why would this be? I came up with three reasons: 1. we are influenced by how this section is laid out. If it looks clean and attractive, we intuitively apply this image to the remainder of the store and how it is managed. 2. we make a trip to a store more often to buy perishable rather than non-perishable items. The fresh food displayed, serves as a frequent and open invitation to enter – ideally every day. 3. The margin to the store for this category (i.e., fresh food) is considerable higher than for the non-perishable items. Something I did not realize until I had a discussion with a retail expert.

Because of its impact on consumers and brand value, this section of the store is likely to change even more in the future. Some of the leading stores are already taking this theme further: they create a sense of freshness, naturalness, choice, personalization and convenience for the shopper. It is retailers’ attempt to turn the whole shopping process into a positive and fun experience. For example, in-store cooking gives consumers the opportunity to choose from a broad selection of inviting products presented unpacked and displayed like at your own local market, which the Chef will freshly prepare for you. Either you can take the dish home or consume it right there in an attractive setting together with other customers. Retailers are achieving the desired effect: I do something good when I shop, it’s healthy and it’s a fun experience.

Joachim Schneider, Head of Vegetable Seeds at Bayer
Joachim Schneider, Head of Vegetable Seeds at Bayer
Joachim Schneider,
Head of Vegetable Seeds at Bayer

And it’s not only inside the shop where things are changing; I recently paid a visit to one of the lighthouse new type retail outlets in my neighborhood. I entered the parking area, and was positively surprised: wide parking spaces! What a pleasure when you do not get irritated by all the other foolish car owners that take 1.5 space (you and I would obviously never do it!), and you can open your doors wide for convenient exit, but even better for stress-free loading. I then go to a close-by shed to get a cart and here is another smart surprise: the handles feel like those of a sophisticated race bike, allowing horizontal and vertical grip. Somebody close by remarks: Super! My handbag will not fall off any more. Well, well, well, little details count!

Fun at the Grocery
Fun at the Grocery
Woman choosing herbs in supermarket

Another growing trend is online grocery shopping. I wonder how fast it will increase. The basic principles mentioned above are the same (freshness, naturalness, choice, personalization and convenience): same day or 24 hour delivery. They often include traceability info, product recommendations on the basis of either your own shopping behaviors or like-minded people, and enclosed recipes. Those who choose this option enjoy all the diverse offers and services made available close to real time in the comfort of their own home. I can already imagine what will follow: personalization of your on-line product recommendations, not only on the basis of your own consumption behavior but on your body data (wearables, etc.). All these data could drive very different loyalty schemes establishing a more direct and stronger connection between nutrition and health.

Simultaneously another trend is developing: growing it yourself. A part of the population always grew their own produce, now it’s becoming trendy again but it involves much younger folks than traditionally. Obviously, it cannot get more local then this. My youngest son has “rented” a piece of land from a former farmer together with some fellow students. They not only grow food themselves (that still amazes me – a few years back a lot of creativity was invested to avoid even entering the garden, when dad was DIY) but also have access to the products in the farm store on a flat fee basis. Here again, the grocery shops are already picking up on this theme. The first concepts for in-store growing are appearing. Shoppers pick up their lettuce right from the shelf. Amazing, no more middle man!

All of the above have a great side effect: we will eat and consume more consciously and the demand for healthy food will continue to increase. The category that will benefit most from it is vegetables and fruits. At least this is what I conclude. I’m very pleased with this very positive trend I observe – not because of our vegetable seed and horticulture business, but as a customer. I anticipate the topic will remain hot and I’m convinced we will see many changes impacting the path that food travels from the farm to our tables.

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