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What’s New on the Retail Shelf?

Foodservice professionals do well to keep an eye on new products and trends in the retail marketplace

While the foodservice and retail food channels remain distinctively different in many respects, the various ways in which they intersect and overlap have been a constant source of discussion for many years.

Certainly, retail grocers, drugstore chains and convenience stores have sought incremental sales revenue by adding various prepared food and fast food type offerings, sometimes more and sometimes less successfully. For their own part, traditional foodservice operators have adopted many retail practices and often seek to leverage trends in retail product development.

In the onsite sector, retail-pack food and snacks have become big business, whether in the form of impulse-buy items merchandised by traditional cafeterias or via convenience retail specialty areas, like the c-stores, mini-marts and grocery displays that have become common at college, B&I and healthcare locations.

It does foodservice professionals well, then, to keep a close eye on specific retail trends whether in the form of new products, packaging or positioning. This month I thought I’d offer a sampling of retail trend articles I’ve noted in the general press over the last year that could be of interest to FM readers.

Bold Colors, New Flavors. A quick look at the impact changing demographics—especially Latino and Asian influences—are having on retail product flavor profiles and new customer product demands. (New York Times).

How to Package Freshness. Retail manufacturers are seeking new ways to make packaged product seem fresher and more natural, whether in the grocery, frozen or refrigerated food aisles. That’s resulting in new labels, brands and positioning (Fast Company).

Relaxation Beverages Become Big Sellers. Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that this category could increase to over $220 million by 2016, and in this article highlights six recent big sellers.

New Fruit Flavor Alternatives are also proliferating.

An Expanding World of Caffeinated Snacks. From chili condiments to candy, from beef jerky to waffles, the retail landscape is full of experimentation as food and snack producers try to latch on to the energy drink bandwagon (The Wall Street Journal).

Online Grocery Ordering Services. Remember WebVan? Peapod? The idea of ordering groceries online for home delivery didn’t fade with the dot-com boom, and such services are now being offered by several mainstream grocers. (Supermarket News).

Supersizing Healthy Food. A photo slide show look at 19 upsized healthy food offerings from quickservice chains. (Bloomberg BusinessWeek). For an in-depth look at the multi-million effort McDonald’s made to  “fix” its “freshness problem,” read this Bloomberg BusinessWeek feature.

International Chip Preferences. Global snack companies like Kellogg’s keep their fingers on the pulse of consumers around the world.  French Consommé Pringles in Japan, anyone? (The Wall Street Journal).

More Strategic Display Merchandising. Check out how top retailers like Whole Foods and Target put their store aisles and floor layouts to work. (Bloomberg BusinessWeek).

Jostling for Bottled Water Market Share. As the bottled water field has become crowded, big producers like Nestlé have eyed products and brands targeted to more demanding and more affluent consumers.  (The Wall Street Journal) and (The New York Times)

And finally, just a reminder that the large packaged goods companies’ new product development efforts have costs that go far beyond their R&D and supply chain investments. Read “Where Lawyers Never Go Hungry,” a look at the immense legal costs companies from Kraft to Chobani to Ben & Jerry’s sustain in defending their products from plaintiffs’ lawyers: (Bloomberg BusinessWeek).

TAGS: Management
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