Aisle Chatter

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As is typically the case with the start of every new year, many people are kicking it off with resolutions to eat heathier. One Michigan mom is taking it a step further by trying to get her local supermarket chain to get rid of the temptation in the checkout aisles altogether. Jane Kramer started a petition in September addressed to Meijer co-CEOs Hank Meijer, Mark Murray and president and soon-to-be CEO Rick Keyes asking that their stores replace the junk food at the checkout aisles with “healthier food and non-food options.” In addition to that, Kramer would like also to see more educational reading material for children in place of the tabloids and magazines that are typically found there. This is not the first time that Kramer has asked Meijer’s to make these changes – she first contacted their customer service department five years ago with multiple requests, but never received a response. When she reached out again in 2016, she was denied any communication with anyone at corporate, which prompted her to initiate the current petition. Although the petition has garnered national attention, including a mention on the ABC morning program “Good Morning America,” I don’t see Meijer’s buckling under the pressure. Instead, most likely we will see Meijer’s and other retailers supplementing the selection with more healthful food choices but not replacing it entirely as a result of changing consumer desires and trends (largely attributed to the tastes of Millennials), not this petition itself. I think it is a little far-fetched if Kramer believes that the entire checkout section of a traditional retailer should only feature healthy options since there is still a demographic that enjoys buying the less healthy treats. After all, isn’t that where parenting comes in by telling the child no if it they don’t want them to have the junk food or the disapproved-of reading material?

Speaking of Millennials (unfortunately, it almost seems like we can’t stop talking about them!), their buying preferences continue to delineate a market fragmentation in the retail world, making it increasing difficult for manufacturers and retailers to not only employ mass marketing techniques but also making it hard to establish brand loyalty. According to Pam Danzinger (market researcher, author and an internationally recognized expert specializing in consumer insights for marketers targeting the affluent consumer), “I find that more and more Millennials are looking for special experiences. They want a better quality service experience from people who really know their stuff.” As a result, CPG companies are exploring new ways to create brand loyalty, which more often than not now requires a digital element. Tueutly Corriea, senior managing director at Accenture, a global professional services company that provides strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations services, stated in a recent article he wrote for the publication, Marketing:CPG: “…a growing number of brands are reinventing how they interact with the consumer. Rather than seeing themselves purely as makers and sellers of products, they are becoming platforms. They are building digitally enabled communities of like-minded individuals that help them stay relevant and build greater intimacy with the market.” It is important, Corriea continues, to establish whether that brand is a utility brand (one that consumers purchase semi-regularly and predictably) or an experience one (“products that come with a distinctive, memorable experience”). It is the latter that is more conducive to creating a platform, ideally partnering with other brands whose services and/or products complement what their own. In doing so, the brand can create a relationship with the consumer by creating a “compelling, multi-facted experience.” In any case, digital engagement has become a necessity, not an option, if manufacturers and retailers both want to retain the Millennial shopper.

Kroger is one such retailer that is trying to provide a special experience by offering the Crowler, a 32 ounce aluminum can that is filled with beer and sealed for one time use. The Cincinnati-based retailer is testing it at one of its stores in Memphis TN with an offering of 12 different beer tap options. So far, according to Rachel Booker, adult beverage specialist at the Kroger Delta Division, feedback has been positive. It is this willingness to cater to their customers and try new experiences that keeps Kroger at the forefront of the grocery industry.