Changing with the times

by Jack Crews
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Food
 
KANSAS CITY, Mo. –
The relationship between retailers and their food-product suppliers evolves continuously as they try to work together to keep pace with consumers who are constantly varying how, when and where they will shop and what they will purchase. Old methods of attracting buyers are less likely to have profitable results due to how retail consumers have higher expectations of the quality of the products they buy. Retailers are forced to adapt to the times or face bankruptcy, a lesson stores like Sears and K-Mart have learned the hard way, as they have all but vanished from the retail landscape in recent years. These and other related issues were the topic of a June 6 webinar titled, “Recovering Vitality and Relevance in the Next Five Years: Recasting the Traditional CPG and Retailer Relationship,” sponsored by The Food Institute, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
 
Representatives from Inmar, a commerce analytics company based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, looked at historical trends and how they can influence future strategies. Jim Hertel, the senior vice president of Inmar, and Craig Rosenblum, Inmar’s senior director, were the two speakers for the webinar. The pair highlighted some of the factors food retailers should consider in developing strategies in the years to come. These included analyzing recent retail food trends; how trading partner relationships have come under pressure; how retailers can compete in this new environment; market challenges retailers and manufacturers both face; and how collaboration in this new world can result in success for all parties.
 
Hertel stated that traditional brick-and-mortar supermarkets find themselves competing with newer forms of competition, with e-commerce being the most prominent threat. He described this type of commerce as “Where the growth is as we see it going forward,” adding that this category of food sales had an increase of 26 percent in 2017.
 
Hertel explained how big-name manufacturers were previously capable of exploiting their scale to attract consumers to their products and brands, an advantage they don’t enjoy in today’s more diverse marketplace. Hertel said these companies “marketed on a national basis,” as well as “advertised and promoted regularly and broadly.”
 
Hertel pointed out that among retailers, “It was the big brands who were favored, as it related to being able to both invest in collaborative relationships and receive the benefits of those collaborative relationships.” Today, the relations between trading partners has become strained due to factors such as a foundational shift in purchasing patterns led by millennial consumers, the growth of online retail sales, and a general skepticism toward large conglomerates among many consumers.
 
Rosenblum pointed out how traditional food retailers’ venues remain a viable and the degree of the success of grocery stores. Supermarkets’ future growth depends on how well they deliver on factors such as convenience, personalization and providing pleasant shopping experiences. “We certainly know that the store is going to evolve,” Rosenblum said, but he accentuated the significance of engaging with shoppers and evolving outside the traditional means of shopping to guarantee success. Rosenblum established that today’s consumers expect a seamless and consistent experience when shopping, whether they are shopping online, using mobile devices, or in-store. He suggested retailers must make shopping “An interrelated, or interconnected, experience for the shopper,” to ensure consumers keep coming back.
 
Hertel detailed some objectives Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies should aspire to succeed. He stressed the need to regain competency with consumer-driven innovation, emphasizing the importance of “making sure that it’s a core asset.” Hertel also advocated fostering a culture of speed, which he described as, “Not only speed to market, that has been important; I would also say it’s speed to admit failure, and speed to get out of those activities.”
 
Finally, Hertel discussed the concept of successful collaboration between retailers and food companies in today’s competitive environment. “With all of the emerging brands and all of these different and smaller formats that are emerging, the choice set and the choices of whom and around what topics you’re going to collaborate is just exploding,” he said.
 
The Food Institute’s next webinar, “Understanding Your Assets: Expert Strategies for Food and Beverage Processors” is scheduled for June 19, at noon CDT. To register, click here.
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