‘Honest clarity’ is the next food retail strategy

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‘Honest clarity’ is the next food retail strategy


U.S. grocery shoppers want transparency that engages them while offering assurances of food safety, the pursuit of health and wellness, the appetite for discovery and a closer connection to food, according to the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2017 analysis.

“[Consumers] can handle the truth, and the information they do want to know they want delivered in a clear, forthright, trustworthy and easy-to-find way that conveys some sense of vulnerability and openness,” said FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin while presenting the findings recently in front of more than 400 of the industry’s future leaders in Chicago at FMI’s Professional Development Conference. “This is a crucial area because I think honest clarity is the currency of trust in the digital age.”

In its analysis, FMI also reports that while less traditional retailers enjoy more grocery traffic and shopper loyalty, 8 percent of shoppers still claim to have “no primary store.” Limited assortment (25 percent), natural (17 percent), convenience (11 percent), ethnic (11 percent) and online only (11 percent) food stores are increasingly frequented by shoppers. This is particularly significant because this year the research suggests how comfortable millennials have suddenly become with using online shopping for their grocery needs, although they still order only a limited breadth of food products.

Sarasin said that the unpredictable state of the marketplace demands a strategy to help transform a retailer from “just a store” to an ally. According to FMI’s findings, overall shopper ratings of how well stores are meeting their needs favor those retail channels that lead in transparency, including natural and organic, online-only, club, fresh-focused and midmarket traditional grocery stores. Conversely, retail channels trailing in transparency include discount, convenience, supercenter, limited, dollar, drug and value-focused. Consumers continue to view their primary store also as a primary ally in their wellness pursuits (45 percent).

The analysis cites dimensions of transparency that can help retailers better connect consumers with the broader context of their food, notably a retailer that demonstrates easy access to relevant information, clear quality standards, proactivity and accountability, fair treatment of employees and openness about business practices.

“In the competitive food retail landscape and in an age in which information moves faster and faster, the consumer demand for clear and honest answers offers a zip-line to confidence in the complex food system,” Sarasin said.