Marketing to Center-of-Store Shoppers  3/31/2016

Grocery store shoppers are in a quandary. On one hand, they know they should be shopping the perimeter of the store—eating more fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. But increasingly busy lifestyles and the challenges of preparing healthy, well-balanced meals often has them reaching for foods from the center of the store that can be quickly prepared or eaten on the go—packaged soups, ready-to-eat breakfast items, and protein bars. Research shows that consumers are looking for foods that are easy to prepare, and, at the same time, offer the same health benefits of a meal made from scratch. Women’s Marketing looks at how value conscious center-of-store consumers perceive CPG foods and offers effective marketing strategies to convert them.

Alleviating Consumer Concerns
Traditionally, the center of the store is comprised of shelf-stable and frozen-food products. Although they’re easy to prepare and eat, 23% of consumers perceive them to be artificial and one-in-five believe these foods to be unhealthy. Despite these worries, sales of center-of-store foods are growing. Smart brands can alleviate shopper’s concerns and counter negative perceptions by calling out healthy attributes on packaging and incorporating more healthy ingredients, similar to the addition of fiber and whole grains in breakfast cereals, digestive benefits from probiotics, reduced added sugars, and low calorie counts. For example, 44% of Millennials agree that a frozen meal labeled “organic” is healthier than a from-scratch meal made without organic ingredients.

Demographic Differences
Older consumers aged 55+ and Millennials have different priorities when shopping center of the store. Millennials will spend a premium for brands they deem worthy, filling their cart with a mix of name brands, boutique brands, and private labels, while older consumers are loyal to name brands and value-oriented store brands. Millennials will spend $65 billion on consumer packaged goods over the next decade, making them an important target for food marketers. Brands that appeal to Millennials’ demand for ingredient transparency, quality, and health will build trust with these savvy consumers.

Despite some differences in their shopping lists, all demographic groups are interested in one trend: 61% of all consumers and 65% of Millennials agree that it’s important to buy locally sourced foods whenever possible. While a desire to support local businesses may contribute to the trend, it also reflects consumer perception that these products are fresher and more environmentally friendly.

A full 51% of consumers say they mainly shop at traditional grocery stores, but mass retailers, club stores, and natural food stores are also important for center-of-store goods. Lower-income families who don’t have easy access to grocery stores also frequent dollar/discount stores and drug stores for CPG foods. While governmental healthy eating initiatives have sought to increase the food options in low-income areas, 49% of households earning less than $24K rank dollar/discount stores as one of their top five options for purchasing center-of-store foods, as do 41% of those making $25-49K, compared with only 30% of those earning more than $50K annually. As America’s middle class shrinks, consumers still want access to the name brands they have grown to trust but may not have regular access to. CPG brands may consider expanding their offerings in dollar/discount stores to retain these consumers.

As consumer perceptions and choices change, brands must keep up or be left behind. Women’s Marketing offers insight into the trends affecting shopper behavior to identify emerging opportunities for marketers. Contact us today to learn how we can help your brand develop a marketing and media strategy that reaches your core consumer.

Sources: Mintel Center of Store, Forbes Six Trends CPG Brands Must Embrace to Win With Millennials

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Andrea Van Dam

Women's Marketing

Women’s Marketing is the leading media strategy, planning, and buying organization for emerging and high-growth brands. We offer a deep understanding of how women consume, engage, and take action with media, with unmatched expertise in beauty, health, fashion, food, and beverage. Every Women’s Marketing client enjoys the benefits associated with the significant purchasing scale we achieve through the vast network of companies we serve and our strong relationships with global media leaders.

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