Six Key Grocery Trends and How to Address Them

Revel Blog | Sydney Kida | February 28, 2020 |


A Closer Look at Key Grocery Trends

Did you know that 10% of Americans are now purchasing their groceries online?

With the continued rise of online shopping, the grocery industry needs to explore new ways to meet customer needs while enticing consumers to shop in-store. That starts with understanding grocery trends and deciding which ones to implement and which ones to pass on. 

Here are six key grocery trends to consider, as well as ideas on how to address each one. 

Sustainability is the Name of the Game

The environment, sustainability and climate change are all hot topics for 2020. This  reflects consumers’ growing desire to find solutions that align with their personal values. 

Grocery chains have an opportunity to make a big impact in this area. They can achieve this by providing customers with new ways to reduce their waste and lessen their environmental footprint.

Trend #1: Zero Waste Shopping and Enviro-Friendly Packaging

Over the past decade there has been a move to push shoppers towards using reusable grocery bags. However, when it comes to being more environmentally friendly, that’s just the start. 

In the United States alone over 300 municipalities have an outright ban on plastic bags or require retailers to charge for them. Others are taking it a step further and banning items such as plastic straws and cutlery. This means that grocery chains need to begin to follow suit when it comes to packaging

Consumers are adopting this trend by skipping the plastic bags and cello packs needed for produce or bulk dry goods. Multi-use glass and plastic containers, beeswax wrap, and reusable zipper-top plastic bags are already available for consumers to use at home. Now, the expectation is that grocery retailers will begin to offer alternative packaging like this in store. 

New York City-based grocery retailer Precycle, offers package-free bulk foods, produce and home goods. Shoppers bring clear, reusable containers that can be weighed in-store before they shop to ensure they’re paying accurately for their purchases.  

Trend #2: Expansion of Plant-Based Options

Whether it’s due to health benefits or ethical reasons, plant-based foods have grown in popularity over the past several years. This trend shows no signs of slowing down. 

Consumers choosing to go meatless want multiple choices, including with food-on-the-go. More brands are expanding their offerings, like Dole, which has launched a line of salad kits that include plant-based protein. 

Trend #3. Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture methods are appealing to consumers who want to eat in a way that leaves less of an impact on the earth. It's the practice of working towards improving the resources that are being used as opposed to simply depleting them.

Specific practices and principles are used to enhance and rehabilitate the whole ecosystem of a farm, focusing on areas such as water management and soil health. These practices have a positive effect on climate change by pulling carbon from the atmosphere.

With the rise of regenerative agriculture, grocery chains are exploring additional options for distributors who work with large scale farms implementing these practices.   

How to Address Sustainability Grocery Trends 

With growing interest in how they can personally make a positive impact on the environment, consumers want alternative solutions. To offer a better overall customer experience, retailers need to lead the way by both making and demonstrating an ongoing commitment to sustainability.

Share the Food Journey

Consumers want transparency when it comes to understanding the supply chain. Provide information on your website as well as via in-store touch screens and signage to explain food origins and what practices your distributors use. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to promote how your store is making a positive impact. Share the story behind the food and its journey. This can be done by highlighting that you rely on local farmers or how you partner with companies committed to regenerative agriculture. 

Consider the Packaging

Excess plastic or waste can be a deal breaker for many consumers. Look for ways to reduce by working directly with distributors to see what can be scaled back or eliminated entirely. Also, grocery retailers with in-store or private-label brands should examine their manufacturing processes and identify opportunities to reduce packaging. 

In store, offer consumers the option to purchase reusable produce bags or containers for dry goods. Another option to eliminate packaging is by creating a bulk section where shoppers can bring their own containers.

Add More Variety

While plant-based options are on the rise, they’re not as readily available at many retailers. Looking for opportunities to add these choices to the grab-and-go section should be a priority.

While people want plant-based alternatives they aren’t always sure how to integrate them into their meals. This presents an opportunity to educate shoppers. Provide suggestions and recommendations for how plant-based food can be used and substituted for meat products. Look for ways to add an experiential element with shared plant-based recipes on your app or at in-store cooking classes. 

Consumers Are Always on the Go

It’s no secret that today’s consumers are busy and looking for ways to be more efficient with their time. One of the biggest trends in grocery retail is focused on getting consumers in and out of the store as quickly as possible. Also, there’s an additional focus on helping consumers save time at home by offering products that support faster meal preparation. 

Trend #4: Interactive Apps and Touch Screen Integration

As technology continues to rapidly evolve, grocery retailers should prioritize expanding their digital footprints. 

Considering the level of convenience they offer, it’s not a surprise that automated grocery vending machines are becoming more common. Customers place grocery orders through an app and then use the barcode they receive to pick up their purchases directly from a secured vending machine. Retail giant Walmart began testing these kiosks in some locations in 2018 and has continued to expand availability since. 

Mobile apps are increasingly designed to offer a personalized experience while shopping in-store. Customers can set up a profile and have their app scanned at the time of checkout. This data is then used to build offers and make recommendations for future purchases.

The Kroger app allows customers to build their shopping list and load coupons and offers. It then helps speed up the shopping process  by telling customers exactly where in store they can find the items they’ve saved.

With more than 3.2 billion smartphones in use worldwide, touchscreen technology has never been more accessible and familiar to consumers. Touchscreens are still gaining traction from grocery retailers, but as we move through the decade consumers can expect to see more integration. Most notably, McDonald’s has begun leveraging this technology, with the use of touchscreen ordering and digital signage within their locations. 

Trend #5: More Grab-and-Go Meals 

Consumers want choice. While a large number of grocery retailers have added grab-and-go counters to their locations, options are often limited. Rotisserie chickens and pre-packaged sandwiches can be found just about anywhere, so variety will act as the differentiator between competitors.

One of the biggest benefits grocery stores have over quick service restaurants is access to a vast selection of food types and distributors. Not only are grab-and-go food prices competitive, but menus can be quickly changed if prices on specific items fluctuate. 

With a push towards healthier eating, more consumers want items such as meal prep kits with fresh ingredients to assemble at home. This is a way for grocery retailers to get creative and provide offerings that consumers may not expect to find in store. 

Trend #6: In-Store Dining 

An estimated  20% of Americans stop at a quick-service restaurant each week.

Grocerants, or grocery retailers with in-store dining options, need to capitalize on consumers’ quest for quick and easy food. Offering a variety of choices for in-store dining allows consumers to take care of two things in one location.

Retailers also have the advantage of providing quality food at a reasonable price, thanks to their access to food distributors and lower food costs. 

Hy-Vee grocery store in Columbia, Missouri has embraced the in-store dining trend with the 140-seat Market Grille restaurant. It offers high quality food using fresh ingredients in a casual setting. Other grocery retailers like Wegmans and Whole Foods have already adopted this trend. 

Proven Strategies to Provide Convenience and Ease 

Consumers are always looking for greater convenience. You can build loyalty and attract new customers to your location by demonstrating that you’ve invested in ways to save them time.

Leverage Touch Screen and App Technology

An easy way to create an interactive experience is to let customers leave a review while they’re in store. Similarly, use interactive signs to share product details.  This is an easy way to feature digital content such as product videos, how-to product demonstrations or popular recipes. 

Also, apps are the perfect way to keep customers engaged with and loyal to your brand. Customers can browse products, ask questions or share advice with the community. An app can also be used to offer discounts, coupons, information on promotions and tracking loyalty program details. 

Make Seating a Priority

Don’t have enough space for a full-scale dining area? You can install a small seating area in-store where 10 to 12 people can enjoy their meals or snacks. Then, you can expand as your in-store dining area gains traction with customers. 

Incorporate Greater Variety into Your Grab-and-Go Section

Seek out opportunities to include a selection of both ready-made and prep-at-home options. From single-serve meals to kits designed for the entire family, the goal here should be variety including healthy choices.

Remember, customers often want to eat what they don’t make at home, so look for ways to go beyond typical fare such as tacos and pizza. Think about adding cuisine such as Thai or Greek to attract new customers. 

Prioritizing Which Grocery Trends to Focus on First

While each of these grocery trends are worth your consideration, you know your customers best. Instead of trying to embrace all the trends at once,  make strategic choices based on what will have the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time.

Remember to include your customers in the process. Their feedback can be an invaluable resource in terms of what they want to see in your location. By adopting grocery trends that are most relevant to your customers, you’ll enhance the customer experience while building loyalty. 

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