What’s the mindset of shoppers when they are in the store? Of course, it will depend on the shopping mission – the big stock-up shop; topping up; dinner for tonight; dire emergency; special occasion, etc.? For routine purchases, shoppers may be in automatic mode, navigating a familiar store with a few seconds apportioned to each item and, occasionally, internally fulminating if the retailer has rearranged the products and the eggs are no longer in aisle 7.
For most occasions, the shopper is not intimately engaged in the grocery gathering process and that presents a challenge both for the retailer and the supplier. So, what can we do to raise the selection of a regularly purchased product from the mundane to something a little more exciting (look, be realistic, the carrot purchase will never be sublime!). For fresh produce, we know that locally-grown, how they’re grown, who grew them, variety and seasonality are hot buttons, so, that gives us a start and puts us a long way in front of a Mars bar!:
- visiting Whole Foods Market is always inspirational – you can see how the seasons change and which product complements another
- one of our friends sent us this story from Japan – talking vegetables! (see Japan Trends post). It’s a bit scary but a brilliant way to link the buyer with the producer;
- The Norwegian Skrei Cod story is an excellent way to differentiate an unique product from a dull commodity – a delicate fish available for a few short months and caught by artisanal Norwegian fishermen;
- Travel the world through a short tour of Marks & Spencer’s wine department – less than 100 references but from countries ranging from the expected (France, Australia) to the surprising (India, Lebanon, Japan and Macedonia).
The global financial crisis honed consumers to become increasingly savvy shoppers. Of course, customers love to save money but they also feel good about saving local economies and the environment! It’s important to play to shoppers’ emotions without being patronizing. Buying produce which is grown close to home just makes commonsense. Also, once shoppers get a feel for the melody of the seasons – and that freshly-picked may very well be tastier and the best deal – then, being savvy has an emotional feel good element to it, too. British supermarkets have responded to this by spraying the produce department with Union Jacks, and charming pictures of the British countryside, and the amiable trustworthy custodians of the land and producers of the produce!
But, it’s not just about home-grown and local. When families are preparing a special meal – when they want the food to be the hero and heroine and to be the centre of the table talk – shoppers seek information on the products they buy and want the story associated with them. Are the ingredients organic, fair trade, a forgotten variety from a very special orchard on the slopes of Mt. Fujiyama? Make sure the stories are authentic, though! Sometimes we want to show ourselves and our friends that we are knowledgeable, concerned foodies. It makes consumers feel good and assuages the guilt about our weekday food eating behaviour which is more about fuelling the body than feeding the soul!