Consumer-Driven Trends Reshape Food Retail

May 17, 18 | Cold Chain, Food Retail

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This blog summarizes an article from Chain Store Age, entitled “Food Everywhere!” Click here to read the article in its entirety.

We’ve covered the recent shift in focus for food retailers: many are increasingly leaning toward experiential retail and offering fresh, made-to-order food offerings in traditional, new and sometimes unconventional ways. While new and engaging tactics to improve consumer shopping experiences offer many benefits, there are operational considerations to be made. Here are four emerging trends that have developed as food retail has evolved.

Blurred lines in retail roles

The made-to-order food preparation model has changed what consumers expect to see from restaurants, grocers and, occasionally, non-food retailers. Supermarket operators can no longer get by with sandwiches and a “hot bar” in the deli section; consumers expect more. Enter the “grocerant,” a place where consumers can buy their groceries, eat a freshly prepared meal or take one home with them.

Restaurant brands are extending their reaches by deploying temporary kiosks, food trucks and other mobile formats, allowing them to participate in public events and expand their offerings for consumers. Convenience stores are also dipping into this trend, toying with the idea of c-store dining, while non-food retailers are latching onto the trend through seasonal promotions and in-store cooking demonstrations.

Experiential retail is here to stay

The made-to-order food trend is not a flash in the pan and continues to keep consumers coming back. Experiential retail has not only transformed the consumer experience in traditional food retailers, but also food courts/halls. Rather than traditional fast food offerings and a focus on convenience, food courts/halls have shifted toward higher-end, artisan dining options to present a more upscale dining experience. This trend lies in the studies that show Americans spending more money dining out than on groceries. Experiential retail is using those numbers to the advantage of retailers.

Utilizing new technology to keep food safe

As food retailer offerings become increasingly more complex, so does ensuring the safety of that food. Rather than focusing solely on meeting regulations and achieving compliance with food codes, equal emphasis is now being put on maintaining food safety to preserve the consumer experience. New hand-held thermometers, advanced sensors, and automated temperature monitoring and management systems are granting retailers the opportunities to deliver more consistent temperature control and simultaneously protect both their consumers and brand reputations.

Facility optimization improves consumer experience and sustainability

Aside from providing premium dining options, creating an inviting, comfortable and safe environment for consumers is key to experiential retail. The next generation of facility management and building automation systems helps ensure the reliable performance of coolers, freezers, HVAC and lighting services. This allows operators to highlight featured areas of the facility, control temperature in traditionally cold or warm aisles, and create ideal dining areas. This new technology also addresses sustainability goals by improving energy efficiencies and reclaiming heat for reuse and/or waste stream reduction.

According to a recent report from Cushman and Wakefield, food-related retail is responsible for the most aggressive retail growth within the past few years. That growth does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. It is crucial for food retailers, traditional and non-traditional alike, to remain up to date on current trends and adjust their service offerings to maximize the consumer shopping experience and ensure food safety.