Strengthening your center store sales.

We’ve all heard the advice that if you want to eat healthy, shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Younger consumers, especially Millennials who represent a purchasing power of $200 billion annually, are shopping for fresh, unprocessed, whole foods. At the same time, Baby Boomers are seeking more health-conscious alternatives.

U.S. sales of these perimeter items — produce, deli, meat, and seafood — have increased 5 percent over the past five years, according to a Nielsen report dated last June. However, the report goes on to state that center store sales have remained stagnant for some product categories and have declined for others, including those offered by industry giants such as Heinz, Kraft, and Kellogg.

Is fresh food really to blame?

Not totally. While health-centric shopping has definitely given a boost to perimeter sales, packaged foods are quickly catching up to the trend with low-sodium, low-fat, and gluten-free choices, as well as sustainable packaging. And consumers still have a need for long shelf-life foods. For example, 88 percent of all shoppers purchase not only fresh, but also frozen and canned vegetables (Nielsen), creating opportunities for inventive promotional strategies throughout the entire store.

Perhaps more important than the wellness mindset is that people are more harried than ever. Shoppers are looking for the convenience of total meal solutions without spending time perusing the aisles. They’re shopping on a mission, list in hand, and want to get in and out as quickly as possible.

Some strategies.

1. Grab and go. Move staple products typically found in the back or center of the store (like bread and milk, for example) right between the entrance and check out lanes. A mini, mini-mart, if you will, complete with small dairy case and directional signage. Other “store within store” concepts could include one-stop-shopping for seasonal activities (barbeque) or non-allergen foods (gluten- and nut-free).

2. Cross-promote. Offer your most select marinades in the meat department. Consider a freestanding display of cereals in the dairy aisle.

3. Use creative signage to provide complete meal solutions. In addition to clustering menu items when you can (dressing, nuts, and dried cranberries, for instance), provide signage in the fresh salad greens section that tells shoppers the aisle where they can find those items, as well as the aisle for pre-cooked chicken strips.

4. Exploit technology with shelf tags. Feature a “recipe of the week.” Then, using QR code technology, direct your customer to download the recipe (let’s say lasagna) with aisle numbers (pulled from your planogram) for each ingredient. This QR code is included on every ingredient’s shelf tag with a “recipe of the week” discount. Buon appetito!

The bottom line.

Very, very few consumers can commit to a completely unprocessed, whole foods lifestyle, yet almost all are insisting on healthier choices. Packaged goods manufacturers understand this and are meeting that demand. The most important thing is to understand what’s relevant to your customers, and then employ dynamic and data-driven marketing strategies to draw shoppers into the center aisles. Bacompt would like to be an integral part of that process.